Because writing is a process of discovery, it’s doubtful that your student’s first draft will be his best work.
Mind you, he will beg to differ. Why, he already likes it the way it is! But whether or not he agrees that his composition should be edited, the truth is that every paper benefits from a second opinion. No matter how many times your child reads and re-reads his own writing, it’s easy for him to miss typos, grammar goofs, or awkward sentences. He knows what he meant to say, so that’s what he sees.
This is where you come in. As his teacher, it falls to you to give constructive feedback. Without it, your child’s writing isn’t likely to get much better.
Parent Editing Myths
Perhaps you simply don’t know how to give objective input. This usually means you don't provide feedback at all—and therefore see no improvement—or you offer suggestions that make your child feel picked on or rejected. To help you renew your perspective, let’s look at three myths about parent editing.
Myth #1: Editing and grading writing are too subjective.
Giving feedback on a child’s writing isn’t the guessing game you think it is. Of course you’ll have to make an arbitrary call sometimes, but once you realize just how many aspects of a composition can be evaluated objectively, it really does becomes easier.
Myth #2: It’s too difficult to edit and grade writing.
Let’s dispel this myth. Learning to edit is a process for both student and parent. The more you edit and revise, the easier it will become. Familiarity produces recognition, and before you know it, you’ll be more skilled at spotting things like repeated words, "to be" verbs, incomplete sentences, and vague vocabulary. And take heart! You don’t have to find every mistake. Even addressing just a few errors can help your child’s writing begin to change course.
Myth #3: I feel inadequate for the task.
This is a legitimate concern. Many parents have a hard time spotting mistakes in their children's writing. But you can learn! Take a "crash course" in grammar and spelling rules, using a resource like The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. Or, buy a second student workbook and take a homeschool grammar course along with your child.
9 Editing Tips for Reluctant Moms
- Use an editing rubric or checklist, if possible. This helps with objectivity.
- Make use of common proofreading symbols and familiarize your child with them.
- Work in a quiet place away from distractions, including the television.
- Edit a photocopy instead of the original, particularly when your child is super sensitive.
- Read through the story or essay numerous times. Read it through completely the first time. Then read it again to see what jumps out at you. Each time you re-read it, focus on something specific. For example, look for smooth transitions; count "to be" verbs; note spelling errors; watch for misplaced modifiers; check for sentence-length variation.
- If possible, edit in a couple of short blocks of time. This allows you to come back to the paragraph again later, after ideas have settled. You may see something you missed before.
- Don't be afraid to make suggestions. Even the most polished paper can improve. While we want to be gentle with our kids' feelings, we will not benefit their writing to mark everything "OK" when improvement can be made.
- While it’s fine to make comments and write little notes directly on the paper, consider using sticky notes. It’s less threatening to your child (especially if he’s young) when your comments can be peeled off and discarded once he's applied your suggestions.
- Always give praise and encouragement along with your helpful suggestions.
Copyright © 2011 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
Kim Kautzer is a regular contributor to TheHomeschoolMom blog. A veteran homeschooler, author, and conference speaker, Kim loves to help parents feel more confident about teaching writing. With a heart to inspire and equip apprehensive parents, Kim encourages homeschoolers that teaching writing is much more objective than they think, and that with the right tools at their fingertips they can lead and motivate their struggling writers. Award-winning WriteShop, her unique and successful writing program, has been honored as one of Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Kim and her husband Jim homeschooled for 15 years. Two of their three children have graduated from Christian universities, and their son is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology. The Kautzers enjoy their passel of grandchildren and their sometimes-empty nest in Southern California. Kim blogs about writing at In Our Write Minds.