Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
After revising research papers, the next step is to look at various strategies to edit them. Editing is the final stage before the final product is handed in. It's important to devote class time to editing, since many students do not spend the time outside of school to edit. Students at this age are not natural editors and will not do it unless they are forced to. I have no problem forcing them to edit because, eventually, they will internalize this skill and use it as they move on to high-school, which will make them stronger writers.
I begin the lesson by pulling up the Editing Check list For Research Paper and students also have a copy of this as well. It is also posted on my web-site. This handout is a checklist. I tell the students they will spend the rest of the class time editing their research papers using the different strategies from the checklist. The strategies focus on:
All these areas students have been exposed to and, hopefully, mastered throughout their writing careers in school. Instead of isolating each on individually, I give it in a form of a check-list so students can work on editing at their pace. The check list format makes it more manageable for students. It can also make it easier for me when I assess their final papers and discuss their grades with them if needed. This is something we can refer back to.
The only strategy that takes some time to explain is reading the sentences backwards. Students do not quite understand how it will help them. I explain to them how it will help them isolate words and punctuation so they can see any mistakes easier than if the read it from the beginning.
I also hand out Ch. 8 Notes: Combining Sentences to the class. These are notes typed up from their textbook. I type up the notes from the students as it saves time and gets them right into editing. Students have learned how to combine sentences and create strong sentences every year in middle school so the information is nothing new. I have them these notes so they can remind themselves how to fix their sentences and vary them in order to make their writing stronger.
This video explains the strategy behind typing up notes for students: Teacher Notes Strategy
For the rest of class, students will spend time editing their research papers. They will use the Editing Check list For Research Paper we reviewed in the previous section. They also have the Ch. 8 Notes: Combining Sentences to use as well.
It's important to give them class time to do this. I find spending time to edit rewarding for the students. When they are given the time to edit, they will. When they are not given the time, they won't. Some students during this time may also be continuing to revise their research papers, rather than edit. While they should be caught up, I have no problem giving them time to choose what they prefer to do. When students can take ownership of how they want to spend the time, they are usually more productive. More productive students equals greater quality of writing. The editing can also be done on their own and I find revising more substantial to the overall quality of the paper.
During this time I circulate around the classroom to make sure students are on task since they are using their computers. There usually aren't many questions during this time since the editing they will be doing is pretty straight-forward and they have practiced these skills in previous years.
Two of the questions to anticipate are the importance of reading sentences backwards and the length of the paper. I work with students on reading sentences backwards so they can see the benefits. For those who are struggling with cutting down, which is common, I read part of their paper and work with them on figuring out why. For some students, it's a matter of simply combining sentences. For other students, they need assistance cutting out unnecessary details. I remind students of their thesis statements and we review the information to determine if it is needed.