What Does Editing Really Look Like? And Why Does It Take So Long?

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT develop and strengthen writing as needed by revising, editing, rewriting by forcing students to edit even when they think they are finished.

Big Idea

Students think they're turning in essays. Instead they're going to learn what editing is really about.

Getting Started

5 minutes

Students should be ready at the beginning of class with a final Great Expectations essay to hand in. I will ask them to place the essay on their desks, just like I always do. But this time, I'm not going to collect it right away. Instead I'm going to ask questions like:

  • Did you check for clear and thorough analysis of theme? Is it present in every paragraph?
  • Did you think about meaningful transitions?
  • Did you read it aloud to yourself to check for awkward phrasing?
  • Did you count the number of times you used linking verbs?
  • Did you synthesize, not summarize, in your conclusion?
  • Are you proud of the work you've done?


I don't necessarily want students to answer the questions aloud; I want them to focus themselves on the essay and really ask themselves to maturely evaluate their process and their work. We have already spent a significant amount of time working of these essays, and even now, I'm asking a lot of questions about we have already done, but editing is hard and I want to make that point. The editing process should take as long as the writing process, especially when you are an early writer. But freshmen almost NEVER leave time for editing; instead, they hand in a neater version of their rough draft, which drives me crazy. Today's class should show students what true editing looks like.


Real Writers Edit

15 minutes

I think that students believe that writers just write, like it's easy and natural. They don't take into account that Dickens and Fitzgerald and Frost put their heart and soul into their work; writers practically bled on the page. I want to prove this fact to them my showing some drafts of published pieces. This website shares the manuscript for A Christmas Carol, written in Dickens' own script and complete with his edits. What a gem! I plan to show this website and start a conversation about what editing means and what it looks like.

Now Let's Edit

30 minutes

Just because I've asked some poignant questions and shown that everyone edits, I'm not delusional enough to think that students will magically become publication-worthy writers. But what they really need is time. Time to reflect. Teenagers never reflect.

I still worry that I will have students who tell me, "I don't know what to do. I'll just hand it in." In preparation of that statement, I have this sentence editing worksheet ready. You can't go wrong starting at the sentence level, which is where this worksheet focuses students. They will read through their essay, tracking the first word of each and the number of words per sentence. It will be easier for them to see whether or not the writing is static, which is turn will make it easier for them to address issues and edit (W.9-10.5). Take a look at the edits they made.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

I expect that students will have have made plenty of edits. Therefore, they will be taking the essays with them instead of handing them in. But I want to know if they learned anything today!

Tell me:

  • 2 things you learned
  • 1 questions you still want to ask


They will write their answers and hand them in.