Any job worth doing – no matter how big or how small – is worth doing well if worth doing at all.
While growing up, this phrase was my dad’s standard response whenever we complained about any job we were required to complete. As an adult, this mantra has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, for if you’re going to embark on a task, it is part of a strong character to do your best. A curse when I just want something to be finished and decide that good enough is good enough.
This phrase haunted me this summer as my husband and I embarked on a remodeling project. He was in charge of the “big stuff,” such as cutting tile, hanging doors, and installing cabinets. The progress he made each day was evident. His projects resulted in, “Look, there’s a kitchen sink where there used to be a hole, and that doorway now has a door where there used to be an empty space.” His progress was grand and noticeable.
I however, was in charge of grout (check out our earlier blog!), caulk and paint. These tasks require a large amount of “touch-up”, fixing drips, missed spots, and rough edges. My progress was slow and meticulous and often focused on mistakes I had made. Trying to be helpful, my husband often pointed out the errors that needed to be fixed. Overwhelmed, I announced to anyone that would listen that I planned to yell at the next person who used the phrase “touching up” with me.
While scraping the front door paint for the 5th time, I reflected how this process mirrors revision and editing in writing. Revision consists of the big, flashy changes. Sentences are rearranged, verbs are improved and adjectives are added. People notice revisions and they often leave the reader with a sense of accomplishment. There is a feeling of satisfaction in looking at before and after, and seeing the improvement that’s been made.
Editing, however, is tedious and often completed when you feel like you are already finished. Instead of making things better, editing often feels like we are fixing up mistakes we’ve made, a whole different perspective. I am sure that many of my students could echo my feelings, “I’m going to yell at the next person who tells me to fix my writing.”
So, the question becomes how we can hold our students to a high editing standard without frustrating them? A few things come to mind . . .
1 – Take editing one step at a time. Students can focus on one editing area, whether it be capitalization or punctuation. (writenow-rightnow.com)
2 – Teach students to use the resources they have around them to spell correctly. How many words in your answer can you find in the question or the text if applicable? We may not be able to spell the word from memory, but we can use the words around us to help us be better spellers!
3 – Create a safe place to edit. No matter how lovingly, “You missed a spot” was uttered, at times it felt like criticism. I’m sure my students feel the same way when they hear, “You forgot a capital letter.” Finding a time and place to have students correct editing errors is always a challenge. I use a few minutes each morning to meet with students individually.
4 – Prioritize corrections. It is overwhelming when we are faced with a long list of “things to fix.” How can I use my students’ individual needs to prioritize their editing tasks?
My touching up is complete, at least for now! I must confess to a great feeling of accomplishment when I crossed the last goof off the list. While often frustrating, this experience has given me new insight into how my students might feel and react to directions.
We’d love to hear from you. What are some methods you’ve used to help your students both revise and edit their writing?