In the previous lesson, students started drafting their essay on Hemingway’s “The End of Something.” They did not get very far. Today, I am giving students time to continue drafting. We are also tackling a writing skill that is largely absent from their skills set, editing.
Although I have repeatedly asked students to spend a good amount of time editing their writing, they still skip this crucial step more often than not. To explain the value of editing, I use a writing assignment that has been recently completed to highlight the great potential in this paper and show them that some editing would greatly improve this paper.
I begin by reminding them of the different things I have been asking them to pay special attention to in their writing, which include the following:
Think big = establish large ideas in your argument
Use the most sophisticated language you can control
Support your argument with strong evidence
I also project one of their papers and state that this is a good example of a paper with great potential. In this video, I try to convey the importance of editing and place accountability on them. I then move on to read this student’s paper and engage students in a collaborative evaluation of the paper, specifically commenting on how well this student was able to handle the three points stated above. For instance, I read the student’s topic sentence aloud and ask the rest of the class to state whether they believe this is a strong topic sentence. Students are pretty good at doing this. They are also able to identify confusing parts in the writing. I also highlight certain things. For instance I may praise the student for using precise analytical verbs or for establishing a large central idea. This paper I select for this activity comes from a series of short writing assignments, like the one in this previous lesson. The paper is recent enough to be revisited without worry that students have totally forgotten about it. They are also short as I only asked students to draft an introductory paragraph and the first body paragraph. This allows me to select a few papers to look at together and I make sure to select a set with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. The ones we look at today allow us to talk about a variety of things:
One paper reveals that the student understands the quote he was to write about, he explains it well, and gives us a very specific example, but does not explain how this example proves his point.
In another paper, the student did not give an example. He just went on to explain the quote and did not support his position.
A third paper is a good example of one that really needs basic editing. I read this one aloud so students can hear the simple mistakes this student could’ve easily edited on his own.
I want students to immediately apply what we have just discussed. For this, I am giving them back their draft of the intro and first body paragraph for the writing prompt on the topic of the use of technology. Their papers already have some feedback, mainly in the introductory paragraph. I made sure to comment on their intro because it is in this paragraph where they explain the meaning of the quote and they struggled with this quote. Many misunderstood the quote and in order for them to edit for improvement, they have to clarify their understanding of the qutote. These are couple of papers on the topic of technology that I gave back to students. I end this session by summarizing what these papers need. I say, “Each paper needs work in a different area. Some need examples, most need elaboration, some need basic editing and then work on the other areas.” I tell students that they are getting this paper back and that they are to edit it and turn it back in for a final grade on it. This means students are working on two papers concurrently: they are editing this paper on the quote on the use of technology, and they are finishing their draft of the essay on “The End of Something.” I am trying to engage students in activities that will improve their writing. We collaborate first to give them a sense of what is supposed to happen when people edit for improvement. Some really have no idea of what is actually supposed to happen when editing so the collaboration provides a clear picture with specific things to look for. They are working on improving two written assignments because they need the practice.
I want to give students feedback on their working draft of the essay on “The End of Something” so I ask students to turn in what they have written so far and I will swap it for their paragraphs on the quote on the use of technology. Many only have part of the outline and maybe the intro paragraph. There is not much to comment on yet so I let them work on their draft.
I give students time in class to work on these two writing assignments. Because they don’t have much written of their essay on “The End of Something” most of the help I provide during this time has to do with the other writing assignment. Several students need minor editing on this older assignment and are able to turn it in before the end of the period and move on to focus on the essay on “The End of Something.” Again, this is valuable practice in improving a written draft and whatever they are able to figure out when editing the first can be immediately applied to the essay on "The End of Something."
I tell students that whatever they have not finished by the end of this period is going to have to get done at home in the next few days. We will be moving on to another story by the end of this week so I set that as the deadline to turn in these two writing assignments.