Encourage thoughtful student writing by offering middle schoolers structured proofreading and editing opportunities. Many middle school state standards require peer and teacher input during the writing process, so it's vital to model careful proofreading or intentionally reviewing written text for mistakes, and editing to accurately correct such mistakes. Help students get the best out of their writing through practicing these skills.
Individual Essay Checklist
The first round of editing should require students to re-read their essays while working through a proofreading checklist. This review should include ideas and content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions. For each, include at least two or three items that need to be reviewed. For instance, conventions that need to be reviewed include capitalization, grammar and punctuation. Additionally, the Common Core State Standards for seventh graders requires a selection of transition words to enhance organization. Students should read through their rough drafts multiple times until they are confident that all relevant errors have been corrected.
Having a second pair of eyes review an essay can catch errors the author may not have seen. After students have proofed and edited their own papers at least twice, have them trade papers with a classmate. Students first should read through their partners' essays one time without making any corrections. Next, they should highlight spelling, grammatical and punctuation and usage errors, using a different color for each type of mistake. Finally, classmates should describe two or three things they enjoyed about the piece as well as two or three things they would do differently. It's vital to teach middle schoolers the concept of constructive, useful criticism that never appears mean or condescending.
Daily Editing Practice
Incorporate editing warm-up activities into your daily classroom routine to help students habitually look for common errors in their own writing. Provide them with a paragraph that's rife with grammatical and spelling errors. Keep it relevant to their grade level and current unit. For example, if seventh-graders are expected to master pronouns, be sure to include incorrect reflexive and intensive pronouns. Correct the paragraphs as a class after 10 minutes. Use this time to review previously-taught concepts or to teach unfamiliar conventions.
Using any piece of writing, such as a short story or a formal essay, allow two students to edit a third student's paper at the same time. Two students other than the author should read the piece without suggesting any edits and discuss a few items, such as author's intent and message. Then, both editors should read through once more, editing for conventions. Finally, all three students conference together to review all of the suggested edits. The teacher should move around the room to observe the process and settle any disagreements between the two editors on proposed edits.
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