Taking the tears out of editing | Elementary grades

by | Mar 12, 2012 | Editing & Revising

As far as most kids are concerned, “editing” and “fun” can never appear in the same sentence. In their minds, the very word editing conjures up images of a parent or teacher poring over their paper with a magnifying glass with a singular purpose: to find fault.

This can be disheartening, especially when Sensitive Seth honestly and truly believes his paper is perfect just the way it is.

Even when your child takes a stab at self-editing before showing his paper to you, he still may not make any changes. He likes what he wrote—and doesn’t see the need to fix a thing.

How can you help this child turn the corner? Is it possible for editing to go from a hated or dreaded chore to something he actually enjoys? Can you really make editing fun?


At first, your child will need your help during self-editing. It can take time—often a l-o-n-g time—before he starts seeing his own mistakes. This comes with much practice, so don’t feel discouraged when he doesn’t catch misspelled words or recognize his story’s lack of detail.

Edit Together

Self-editing is a bit of a misnomer. Even if your children use a reliable checklist that lays out the expectations for the assignment, their eye is not yet trained to seek out their errors. This skill can take years to develop, especially if you’re working with a younger child.

In truth, you’re training your children to become more independent self-editors. As you work alongside them, be patient through the process. As with any other skill we teach our kiddos, it takes time.

Look for the Good

How do we edit or proofread our kids’ papers? Typically, we grab our red pens and hunt down every sentence fragment, misspelled word, and errant punctuation mark until the page fairly bleeds with criticism.

May I whisper a simple secret to you that can absolutely revolutionize the editing process for you and your child?

Start by looking for things he did well.


Before a drop of red ink touches your child’s paper, affirm him by helping him discover what’s right about his story or report, not just what needs fixing. It’s such a simple—and perhaps obvious—concept, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that too often, we focus on the errors.

Use an Editor’s Tool Kit

In an earlier post I introduced you to a cool editing kit called a Said It, Read It, Edit Bag. This tool will help you cultivate the skill of self-editing in your children as, together, you look for ways both to affirm and improve their writing.

Said It, Read It, Edit Bag: Self-editing toolkit from WriteShop

Self-Editing Strategies

Working together, try these self-editing tips with your elementary-aged child:

1. Look for the good.

Invite him to choose a highlighter marker from the Said It, Read It, Edit Bag.

  • As you watch, encourage him to look over the paper by himself and highlight a difficult word he spelled correctly.
  • Next ask him to highlight a sentence he wrote correctly by starting it with a capital letter and using the correct punctuation. Praise your child for a job well done.

2. Make sure the writing project has all the elements it needs.

If not, discuss ideas for improvement, having your child write corrections on the blank spaces between the lines.

  • Structure. Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end (or an introduction, body, and conclusion, if it’s an essay or report)?
  • Organization. Is this a report? Make sure it the main points are organized.
  • Character. If the story has a main character, check for descriptive details about him or her.
  • Setting. Check to see if your child included details for the setting.
  • Plot. Is it a mystery, adventure, or science fiction story? Make sure there is a problem that the character has solved in a satisfactory way.
  • Details. Did your child use details to develop the story? If he wrote a report, are main points supported by facts and other details?

3. Help your child check for mechanics.

Instruct him to read the Writing Project aloud (encouraging a younger child to also track each word with his finger). Have him examine each sentence to make sure he:

  • Indented the first line of the paragraph(s).
  • Began each sentence with a capital letter and used correct punctuation.
  • Does not have any missing words in the sentences.

4. Look for dull or repeated words.

Boring words can be replaced with strong ones. Invite your student to choose one or more weak or overly repeated words and replace them with a synonym. If he can’t think of one on his own, encourage him to use a thesaurus.

5. Circle words that might be misspelled.

Ask your child to circle difficult words whose spelling he wants to check. Tell him to look them up in a dictionary and write each word correctly on the blank spaces between the lines.

By trying some of these simple ideas, editing can become a no-more-tears event. I’m confident you’ll be able to add your own testimonial here one of these days!

“Editing was a dreaded day in the beginning but not anymore.” ~Susan, Florida

“[My daughter] actually looked forward to editing (biggest improvement because she used to hate it). ” ~Andrea, California

“Her self-editing skills really improved. She became more independent.” ~Mindy, Utah

WriteShop encourages students to self-edit and revise in order to create a published final draft. These self-editing tips and The Said It, Read It, Edit Bag™ are some of the creative ways WriteShop Junior introduces and encourages self-editing.

Is it possible for self-editing to go from a hated chore to a task kids actually enjoy? With time, patience, and favorite tools, you can make editing fun!



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