You didn’t see it coming. You merely suggested that maybe the piece of writing your child had been working on could use a final polishing up. The grammar and mechanics could use a little work, and you never thought it would lead to such defensiveness. However, editing for kids is serious and personal business.
Considering, they might not have been crazy about the idea of writing in the first place, and now you want to rehash the process word by word?
Of course, they’re upset.
Imagine for a moment you just folded all the towels that had been piling up on the couch. The sense of accomplishment was tremendous and you exhaled a deep sigh of relief, but then someone comes along and wants to see if you folded them “correctly.” I don’t think any of us would be too happy about this.
Our children feel the same way when we start to pick apart their writing. They finally pulled together all the processes needed to express themselves with the written word, and now we want to “grade” it.
All the drama, emotion, and hormones can lead to some ugly crying, both from you and them. But it’s possible to work through the editing process and learn along the way, without a trip to the store for more tissue.
What is Editing?
There are many words to describe the process of improving and completing a written project. Revising, proofreading, editing, and more, all enter the conversation when discussing the writing process.
However, I think of the writing process as four main tasks: idea generation/brainstorming, writing the rough draft/freewriting, revising/editing/refining, and publishing. You can, of course, break these ideas down further, but primarily these all need to be done when completing a written work.
So what comprises editing? There are two broad areas to consider when editing: grammar and mechanics.
Grammar is just the structure of the spoken or written language. Are the grammar rules being followed? Such as:
- Subject/verb agreement
- Complete sentences
- Incorrect pronoun usage
- Run-on sentences
Honestly, these can be difficult for an adult to correct, and even more challenging for a child.
Mechanics is more the nuts and bolts of written language, such as:
So with editing defined, let’s discuss ways to help our children become proficient in this process without ruthlessly wielding a red pen.
Making Editing for Kids Easy on the Ego
1. Editing Practice
My first suggestion is to first teach the skill of editing without tying it to your child’s writing. Yes, our goal is to help them learn to self-edit their writing, but we don’t have to start there.
Kids are proud of their writing, and they should be, so let’s not immediately start by pointing out all their mistakes. There are many resources to provide you a piece of writing to edit. We’ve used Editor in Chief in our homeschool and others are available.
When using Editor in Chief, your child reads a passage and then tries to identify all the mistakes. The errors fall under grammar or mechanics, and it’s your child’s job to find them all. Luckily, it tells you how many errors are in each passage, because I have been stumped and we’ve had to look at the key.
The benefit of this type of editing practice is that it’s not personal. Our children don’t feel as if we’re nitpicking because it’s their writing. Instead, we’re showing them that mistakes are normal.
2. Use Technology
The technology available today to assist in writing and editing is miraculous. Not that many years ago I was happy to have a typewriter with built-in correction tape. It was so much easier than the White-Out sheets you needed to hold between the paper and key as you made it type backward to correct an error.
We then made the huge leap to word processors, and the spell check feature was nice, but the English language is full of homophones. Over the past twenty or so years, we’ve made huge advances which have made writing easier and faster than ever before.
So how can we use technology to assist in writing and editing for kids?
Many different software and platforms offer a speech-to-text function. From merely sending a text message to composing a paper in Google docs, we can speak our composition, and it magically appears.
But how can this help? For my dyslexic child, this has been a valuable tool because her ability to compose her thoughts greatly outpaces her ability to labor over writing every sentence.
However, any child can benefit from using this technology. Perhaps they could read their writing piece into Google docs and then compare it to their original writing. There will be mistakes in both, but it would be a worthwhile exercise to compare and make corrections.
Plus, they could laugh at Google when it makes a mistake, and no one would get their feelings hurt. Google would also be a disinterested third party pointing out where they made a mistake.
Grammarly is an absolute favorite of mine, and we use it daily. I have the paid version, though the free version is decent. The free version focuses mainly on spelling and easier mechanic errors. The paid version offers so many recommendations that help create a better piece of writing.
You can use Grammarly in many different ways. First, there is a Chrome extension that runs while you are typing online, so even Facebook posts and comments get checked. Second, you can compose right in Grammarly, or you can cut and paste a document in to be corrected. My only issue right now is that it doesn’t work well with Google Docs. They are working on that, and it’s in development.
I credit Grammarly with precipitating my oldest daughter’s improvement in spelling and mechanics. She decided to participate in NaNoWriMo and writing hundreds, or even thousands, of words a day with Grammarly, effortlessly improved her work.
It points out when you have a tired, overused word and makes recommendations for improvement. Grammarly senses when you’ve misused a homophone and will alert you to the error. It even points out when you’re using passive voice or when you have an unclear reference.
3. Do It Together
We’ve all had the experience of turning in a rough draft and receiving back a document that looked as if Ancient Egyptians with a red pen didn’t care for our work. It’s defeating!
If our goal is to move our child closer to self-editing, we need to lift the veil on the process. So what can you do together to help them learn how to find and correct their errors?
- Make a photocopy of their writing for each of you and note the edits together.
- It can help to read writing out loud. By hearing what your children have written, they may notice when something isn’t quite right.
- Edit for one thing at a time. First, edit for spelling. Next, tackle punctuation. Etc.
- Don’t be afraid to take a break. Just because your started editing, doesn’t mean you have to finish it RIGHT NOW. If anyone is starting to get upset, it’s okay to save it for another day.
Self-Editing for Kids Takes Time
Remember, this is a learning process and one in which few people achieve mastery. Even the most famous of authors have editors and proofreaders to correct their errors. However, we often hold our children to an extremely high standard of instant grammatical perfection.
Writing is expression and communication, which is much more than the sum of perfect grammar and mechanics.
Take the time to model the self-editing process to your children, so they grow into competent writers. Ugly crying is not required.