Editing Writing for Kids! Tips for teaching editing in a K-2 Classroom
February 12, 2021
If you’re a K-2 teacher, you already know that teaching writing in kindergarten, first, and second grade certainly comes with its own challenges. There are so many skills that go into learning how to write. As teachers, we must always recognize that teaching writing is a long game. It is a process and students will learn and grow in this process throughout their entire lives.
There are so many aspects of student writing I could share, but today, I want to dive into student editing. In today’s blog post, I am going to share 3 tips to help teach students how to edit their own writing in a K-2 classroom.
To see all this information in video format, simply head over to my YouTube video below and press play!
If you want to read the tips, just keep scrolling.
Before I dive into tip number one, I just wanna share a quick cautionary tip: there should be no “perfect: writing in your kindergarten, first grade, or second grade classroom. Your students’ work should look like a 5-8 year old wrote it. This means the writing should have errors! There is no point in going in, as the teacher, and marking up your students’ writing with red circles and erase marks then having students fix it all and publish it. This looks like a “perfect” piece of art which is not only unrealistic, but it’s also confusing to parents who see this work and think it is their child’s authentic work.
Sometimes that “perfect” work also gets passed on to the next grade-level teacher maybe and that can be confusing too because you can’t really see the student’s strengths and weaknesses. I know teachers don’t do this on purpose, but it’s just a cautionary tip to look out for! Instead, we want our students to be able to go back into their writing independently, re-read it, and find some of the errors and fix them before they publish their paper. It is all a part of the writing workshop process and it’s something that you want them to practice doing from a young age so they can get used to it and know what to look for and build upon it as they continue in their education.
Tip 1: Use CORRECT sample passages when modeling editing
I very often see teachers using “fix it” type of passages where students are going into the writing, finding what’s wrong, and then they have to fix, or correct it. Now, I don’t mean that you can NEVER use these types of activities, but my advice would be to use them sparingly. Instead, when it is time to teach my students how to edit their work I like to use passages that are already correct.
For my classroom, I made some sample passages written as if a second-grade student wrote them for all different genres (personal narratives, informative writing, etc.). Instead of fixing incorrect writing, I teach my students to identify what is correct in the passages. I find that especially in those young grades, our students need as many opportunities as possible to see what the correct writing looks like.
This is their stage of development where we are really focusing on mentor texts and looking at the way authors choose to write language so we can read and enjoy it. Since we are paying so close attention to those types of things, it could be a little confusing to constantly show your students incorrect writing. You probably already know this, but your students already see a lot of incorrect writing in their OWN papers. If you don’t want to write up some sample passages (or use mine from above), you can also go ahead and photocopy a page from a book that you’ve read aloud. Then, I would have students use highlighters to point out different editing skills we are working on. Things such as capital letters at the beginning of our sentences, punctuation at the end of our sentences, etc. Doing activities like this helps to reiterate what good writing should look like as a model for our students as they continue to write themselves.
Tip 2: Use an Editing Checklist
The act of writing is a lot for our youngest students. They need to be able to not only formulate an idea to write about but then they need to take all that knowledge and write it down on paper. Spelling words, using spaces, punctuation… it’s a lot! When teaching editing, this is our chance to help students out and make this as seamless as possible. By using an editing checklist, we can show students exactly what our expectations are as they go back into their work.
I use two different types of checklists. In the one on the left above, students color in a happy face when they check for spaces, punctuation, and re-reading their work. The other checklist, on the right, there is a checkmark column for students to check yes or no and I added two more editing categories (capital letters and using the word wall). The smiley face one is a checklist I usually use in my K/1 classrooms and then towards the end of the year in 1st grade and into 2nd grade, I use the other one! I also made sure to include picture cues for each of the items on the checklist as well.
Not only do checklists give students a clear plan to follow while editing, but they also help students feel successful in the process. Every time they get to color in a smiley face or mark off a check box, they are taking ownership of their work.
Tip 3: Use a Partner
Using partners is so beneficial throughout the writing process. Students are able to bounce ideas off one another. They’re able to listen and look at more student writing. And when editing, they can help one another assess their work.
Now I want to be clear about the reality of using partners to help edit in a K-2 classroom: this is about the long-game.
With the use of inventive spelling and the beginning writing that K-2 students are using, many students will NOT be able to read the other student’s writing. This is not like in the older grades, where students can trade papers, edit another student’s work, then pass it back. That being said, it doesn’t make the process of using a partner any less important!
This is a great way for students to share their writing. We talk about the different reasons why write. Sometimes we write in a journal for ourselves. Other times we write for others to read our work and enjoy it. Other times we write letters to communicate with others. Sharing our work with classmates provides students a valuable moment to share their work with someone who is not the teacher. There may not be a lot of technical feedback going on (especially in the K/1 classrooms), but students can still give feedback on the ideas presented in their partner’s work.
To do this, I would have students use the same checklists as above to have students work through their writing together. They can put a fresh set of eyes on someone else’s paper and look for punctuation and spaces. Now earlier in the process, I like to have students work with a partner to go over some ideas as well. To do this, I like using an anchor chart like this one:
This type of anchor chart gives students examples of questions and feedback to ask their writing partners. I don’t use a partner activity like this one until about halfway through the year in both kindergarten and first grade. In the first half of the year, we really focus on getting students to write their ideas down on paper. Again, using partners allows students to see and listen to other students’ work who are the same age as them. It can be a powerful tool!
All of the anchor charts mentioned above are a part of my First Grade WRiting Formula mini-course. This is a 1.5 hour long video writing course where I go over some valuable practices and activities for you to do with students throughout each part of the writing process. We walk through pre-writing, illustrations, planning out our stories, adding details, editing, revising, publishing, and more. In each part of the course, I share tips and ideas along with printable practice sheets, anchor charts, and more that you can use with your students!
It is completely self-paced so you can dive into it whenever you please and you can have access forever (including any updates or additions I make). Since you have made it this far in my blog post, I wanted to give you $10 off the writing course by using the code SJTSAVE10 at checkout! You can see more about the course below:
Any questions about student editing or other parts of the writing process in a K-2 classroom?! Let me know in the comments below!
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