you are the author (or parent of the
author) of the story with the errors, I am very happy to work with
you to make your story better. Just drop me a note clearly explaining
the corrections you would like made and I will take care of it.
(Also include your full name and contact information in the email!)
you are a concerned reader who has spotted an error,
please read the following excerpt from the Conventions Module of
my online course Teaching
Writing with the Six-Traits, A UW-Stout Professional Workshop for
- Editing, Not Correcting
I wish I'd learned
I have spent
hundreds of hours reading student writing. I now understand that
the precious time spent correcting my students' writing was
wasted. While correcting taught me to be a good proofreader, it
did very little to teach my students how to edit their own work.
At best, my corrections gave them something to copy that was technically
proper; at worst, it crippled their efforts to become independent
Don't get me
wrong - I believe that correctness and conventions are important.
I know that for many parents and students correctness is still the
only measure of success in writing. It just took me a long time
to realize that students do not learn to correct their work by having
it done for them.
For years, I
was frustrated and confused by the ineffectiveness of my edits to
improve student Conventions. I spent long hours correcting student
work. I took care to use proofreading marks to signal errors in
beginning and ending punctuation. I marked spelling, sometimes writing
out the words for my students. I added punctuation and perhaps a
brief note about joining two closely related sentences with a semicolon.
I spent every spare moment offering specific and thoughtful corrections.
the work what happens? Nothing, more often than not. Sometimes all
you hear are complaints about how long it took. "What's this mean?"
is a victory. The students with the deepest problems would lose
corrections or ignore them and recopy their errors. I demanded proof
of "revision," but what I really meant was correction of the errors
I marked. I used specific rubrics, maintained high standards, and
graded fairly. Many students did improve their conventions; others
never moved at all. I learned to live with this open wound. Now
I know better.
I wish I had
learned this sooner: students will not become good editors if you
correct for them.
If you are correcting
your students' errors, the wrong person is practicing the skill.
The time you could spend teaching them to become independent editors
is going into correcting errors one paper at a time. Over the years,
with all this practice, you have become an excellent editor. You
can get a piece in shape very quickly. You can turn out copy ready
for publication in a few minutes.
won't be there with your correcting pen when they are writing in
the real world. We have to give them their own correcting pens.
The job is to teach them Conventions by teaching them how to edit.
- Teach them
- Focus on
a single issue at a time
- Start small
and chip away at the worst mistakes
- Edit every
- Help them
become independent editors
- Work yourself
out of a job
I know it feels
right to make corrections. It feels virtuous to mark that paper.
Parents expect you to correct their kids work and often imply you
are slacking off if you won't. Students expect you to fix their
work. It is easy to give into the pressure, especially if you think
you are doing the right thing.
What if you
were to take the time spent "correcting" and spend it offering critical
feedback using the language of Traits? "Convention errors in the
first paragraph are distracting me to the point where I can't follow
your ideas. Please edit your work for spelling and end punctuation."
I wish I'd learned
this earlier: as good as it feels to correct work, you're not teaching,
you're just burning yourself out. You do not have to be a red ink
slave spoon-feeding your students doses of correctness.
Be a teacher