I’m sure it’s no secret that kids don’t like to edit their compositions.
Unfortunately, by not editing their own papers thoroughly, they place themselves in a “Catch-22” position: though they’re too lazy to edit their own work carefully, they fall apart when they see all the changes you suggest!
What Homeschool Students Think About Self-editing
I don’t like editing. It takes too much time. Besides, I like my paper just the way it is. It sounds good to me. Anyway, if I don’t proofread, Mom will find my mistakes. Why go to all that time and trouble to find mistakes and (perish the thought!) correct them when someone else will do it for me?
But when their parent-edited composition comes back, they sing a different tune!
You’re always so critical! I can’t do anything right. My paper is too marked up. I thought my composition was fine. I didn’t see all that stuff when I read it!
Of course, not all students think this way. However, in my experience over many years of teaching writing and self-editing skills to nearly 200 students, I learned that many, if not most, do become lazy as time goes on, self-editing less and relying more and more on my feedback.
What Homeschool Moms Think During Parent Editing
Wow. I see six “to be” verbs, but Jordyn only circled two. Yet she marked her checklist saying she counted correctly.
So many weak words—very, really, had, went, and a lot. But Evan marked the box on his checklist saying he avoided weak words. He should have underlined them on his rough draft.
There’s no sentence that starts with a present participle, and I can’t find Charlotte’s simile. But she checked the box saying she used all required sentence variations.
Once upon a time, we used to find these errors for our students and suggest ways to fix them—and then we got smart! We began to realize that we were doing them no favor by spending an hour poring over each paragraph rather than requiring them to make greater editing efforts themselves.
The Key to Teaching Self-Editing Skills
So what’s the key to teaching self-editing skills? Put the responsibility back on your teens to do their part in this learning process! When they turn in their self-edited and revised draft to you, give it a cursory glance. If you find too many problems that show lack of self-editing efforts, return it for additional proofreading before editing it yourself.
Specifically, skim the paper for overused “to be” verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been), repeated words, use of required sentence variations, too many spelling errors, and failure to use a thesaurus or follow the assignment’s directions for content.
Work on personal responsibility
Diligent teens should be able to spot most of these errors, since they’re objective and easily measured. So if you find they’ve ignored or neglected any of these—especially if you suspect laziness rather than simple oversight—send the paper back so they can find the mistakes on their own.
Granted, there will always be subjective aspects to self-editing. For example, your son may truly believe his topic sentence is on target or his essay is organized—even if it’s not. That’s okay; you can address these when you parent-edit his revision. But if laziness is preventing him from self-editing more thoroughly, or he’s missing too many errors that should have been obvious, put the ball back in his court.
By making students more responsible during the early stages of proofreading, you’ll not only teach them to improve their own editing abilities, you’ll save yourself a great deal of parent editing time as a bonus!
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WriteShop I and II are great programs for teaching and reinforcing the steps of the writing process–-including self-editing—to your junior high and high schoolers.
Step-by-step instructions and self-editing checklists help them grow in their independence, and parent rubrics ensure that you’re assessing their writing objectively!