Welcome back to Writing with your Child 101!
At this point, your child has enough information to start writing their rough draft. If your child used a graphic organizer to brainstorm their writing, they can add words to create full and coherent sentences and organize the information into paragraphs. It’s a good idea to let them get through a first run before you start tackling the revising and editing process. Going back and forth between generating ideas and revising/editing is not only frustrating and time consuming, it can also confuse your child and not allow them to fully grasp the process when they have to use it later in the classroom.
We always clump revising and editing together, but it really should be seen as two distinct steps. Revising is the act of strengthening writing by making it more interesting and clear, while editing is the act of correcting the structure and mechanics of the writing: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. It may be tempting to do both at the same time, but now that you know they are two different processes, DON’T DO IT! 🙂 It’s really best to revise first. That way, your child isn’t spending valuable time editing information that may not make the final cut.
Writing is a process that takes time and practice. If this is your child’s first experience with revising and editing, this step may be difficult for both of you. It is hard for anyone to think about what is “wrong” with their writing. So instead, frame revising as nothing to do with what is “wrong” with the writing but everything to do with making the writing better. If your child used a graphic organizer, make sure it is handy; use it as a reference to keep their original ideas in mind.
Start by reading the essay aloud. Tell them to listen and see if there are any words, information, or facts missing. Can they see the story as a movie while they are listening? If not, work together to add action words and descriptive language. Read the essay aloud again; this time, have your child listen for whether or not their thoughts are in order and do ideas flow from one to the next? Adding transition words, such as first, next, then, and finally can help. Now, have your child look for multiple usages of the same word, like when they use the word happy 25 times. Underline them and come up with appropriate synonyms. This helps make the writing more interesting, less monotonous, and really beefs up their vocabulary.
With an older child or more experienced writer, using a checklist (either provided by the teacher or self-created) can help you both stay on track with the revising process. Together with your child, read through the essay. Look for and discuss the following:
- A clear purpose : Does the writing match the prompt or essay idea?
- Correct genre: Is it supposed to be descriptive but it’s expository?
- Attention grabbing introduction: Do you want to keep reading?
- Organized paragraphs with transitions: Does the writing flow from paragraph to paragraph? Is it halting? Or does it feel like you’ve gone on several different tangents?
- Enough Information: Are there sufficient examples with supporting details?
- Conclusion: Does the an ending tie everything up? If it’s a cliffhanger, is it intentional?
Now that you have revised a few times, it’s on to the editing portion. While revising may feel like being judged, editing is picking apart writing with a fine tooth comb. Even students that seem to understand appropriate writing mechanics will often miss mistakes in their own writing. While it may take longer, looking for only one type of error at a time can be a helpful way to make sure everything is caught.
Start by having them comb through the essay to make sure all sentences contain correct punctuation, such as ending marks and commas. Reading the essay aloud helps catch run-on sentences or statements that should end with a question mark. Then go back and make sure all sentences start with a capital letter. On the third go around, look at organization and paragraphing. Go back to the outline created during the brainstorming sessions and make sure ideas are grouped together correctly. Lastly, check spelling. Have your child read the essay backward, one sentence at a time, to catch spelling errors and typos. This takes the context and predicted reading we naturally use out of the equation and allows the reader to solely focus on the mechanics of the sentence. You may also need to jump in here because spelling errors can be difficult to catch.
While you are editing, keep in mind that red ink can be very aggressive – try using your child’s favorite color instead to mark their essay up. Need a help with the editing part? Check out Grammarly, which is a Chrome application, that can be a life saver for older kids and for parents that may have their own difficulties with writing.
Phew! You’re done! That was easy. NOT. Revising and editing is one of the most difficult aspects of writing. It comes with lots of practice and modeling. On top of that, teaching your child to see that their essay needs revising and editing may be even more difficult. If you start the revising and editing process with your child and they say, “Nope, I’m good. I don’t need to do any revising and editing. My work is awesome!”, take a deep breath and step back. The parent in you will want to jump in and fix it all. If you do, though, the writing is no longer theirs. The reason you have put all this hard work in is so your child’s voice is the one being heard in the final product.