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Editing Wonderings

I’ve been thinking a lot about editing and conventions and writing workshop. My ideas keep twirling around and I’m trying to grab hold, but they don’t seem to want to be pinned down quite yet. Or maybe I’m still looking for the thing that interests me the most. What I’m grappling with is the disconnect many teachers see between conventions and writing workshop. Conventions are critical to develop for writers; therefore, conventions play an essential role in writing workshop. The tug is if there is too much focus on conventions and perfection then many writers shut down. There is a constant push and nudge between conventions and process.

So I’m wondering, what are your questions or concerns or fierce wonderings about editing and conventions and writing workshop?

Thanks for helping my thinking.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

13 thoughts on “Editing Wonderings Leave a comment

  1. Oh! You asked for questions and concerns! I have many. Primarily, am I preparing them adequately enough for 2nd grade If I don’t hammer home the conventions? But if I focus on conventions too much, wob’t I stifle creativity, which totally thwarts the writing process? On the other hands isn’t it easier to create clearly by insisting on punctuating as you go? I understand that it takes a balance. I am wondering how to keep the balance.

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  2. I am a first grade teacher. When I think of conventions, I mainly think of capitalization and punctuation, v
    But I realize the term can also include spacing between words and margin, and the like. I strive for proper spacing early in the year, through mini-lessons and modeling. That timing is crucial because it enables me to begin to be able to read the pieces that my children write. I have followed Katie Wood Ray’s lead with punctuation and introduce it through a scavenger hunt, looking for all the title marks in trade books that we have in the room, and figuring out how to use them based upon what we find. The children love to do this. They start trying to use punctuation after that, just because it is such a fun thing to do. Once we get to that place, I can confer with them about where they want periods based upon the intonation they want to hear from their reader. We talk about how the voice is supposed to go up or down, and the marks they need to use to communicate their wishes to their readers. It has caught on with some of them – the ones who are ready. Once we have the periods in place, editing for capital letters is not a problem. We don’t edit for perfectness, either. We edit to communicate.

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  3. Conventions are such a tricky topic for writing workshop, I think. I, too, teach them through mini-lessons within our genre studies and think that’s the most authentic and meaningful place for direct grammar instruction. I also believe in teaching kids about the power of grammar, that they have strategic decisions to make (e.g. fragments are ok when you’re using them for a purpose) as writers and that the conventions they use can help them convey their message.

    I’ve recently focused more on having certain kids try quick-edits so that they’re editing on the run. I think this is closest to what real, adult writers do and also more effective for kids who struggle with using conventions – it’s less overwhelming if they do it as they write (stop at the end of a scene, or a paragraph, for example; cleaning as you go, we say, rather than cleaning once a week – it feels like there’s less of it). It’s hard, though, to help kids be accountable to this.

    My kids (fourth graders) recently published book reviews and decided to publish them on a blog so they’d be easily shared with other readers in the school. These were typed, obviously, which creates a whole new level of errors for new typists. The book reviews were student edited and published, so had some errors throughout. The concern is that outside eyes, and especially when the audience is so large, as it is for their blog, have a hard time seeing the writing through the errors. I struggled with the idea of editing the reviews for the kids because I didn’t want outside comments to hurt their feelings or take away from their writing work. I didn’t edit them in the end, because it’s so against what I believe in, and instead have a disclaimer of sorts on the blog (these are student “polished,” so are not perfect) and sent a letter home to families before sharing the link to the blog.

    I think kids definitely need to be held accountable for the grammar and conventions they’ve been taught, which is way harder to do than it is to say, but I also think we all need to have a realistic expectation for what student writers are capable of and work to educate those outside our classroom to do the same. I’ve often heard that the New York Times has an average of 5ish errors per page. I often share that at Open House with my kids’ families when discussing editing expectations for student writers.

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  4. When I think about conventions, I realize it is one of the best ways to convey the writer’s voice, the pauses, the drama. The conventions are what make the words the star! I think your best way of teaching how a convention is powerful is showing a mentor text that demonstrates your point. I agree with wkb57, that picking a focus is important. Choosing one convention that is powerful, showing it with a mentor text that moves your students…that will start to show up in their writing. I think it also helps create a natural balance of modeling, craft, and convention all rolled into one! Now I want to start digging through my mentor text book shelf and sticky notes with conventions as my purpose. Wonder what I’ll find?

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  5. By high school, I focus more on the voice and the content of writing. When it comes to conventions, I teach individually and find resources for students to help themselves. Does that sound bad? I am not in favor of the drill and kill approach to teaching conventions. By the time they get to me, students are pretty sure where their weaknesses are and ask for help if they need it.

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  6. I find it’s a delicate balancing act. I lean more towards using ‘mini lessons’ as a way to target groups as ‘just in time-type learning’. This way I get at the students who need it. The gage I use is – if the lack of conventions makes the writing difficult to read or understand. The student’s goal in writing is to clarify and communicate their thoughts. There is more buy-in from students when they see that conventions/grammar helps them in their ultimate goal – to clearly communicate with depth. And yes, some students need the mini lessons a few times.

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  7. I didn’t read the other comments yet…but I have strong opinions when it comes to grammar and conventions. I feel that they do need to be practiced, but in the context of real writing. This however, is something that I can’t convince the die-hard grammarians about (who are my age- 50 and older). They don’t think it can be learned without drill and kill (worksheets). Then they also use this as a reason for not giving choice and only teaching formula writing. When I heard Jeff Anderson speak I was amazed and super intrigued. He makes it fun and it is easily integrated into the mini-lesson or maxi lesson approach in the process. I also feel, as students grow and are more, and more involved in drafting revison becomes this continual and ongoing process and we need to help kids see how this really occurs in process. Okay…said my peace and I will go back and read all the great comments. xo nanc

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  8. I work with first graders. Obviously I want the students to write first. Then I stress revising for clarity, structure and word choice. Editing is important and I stress it in the last conference we have on a piece. Up until then…it is all about the structure, message, and word choice. When I do focus on editing, I focus on one or two areas not many. I ask students to work on editing those one or two areas on their whole piece and come back to see me. I want them to know editing is necessary so the reader will understand their piece but I don’t want to overwhelm them and turn them off from writing. This must be working because I am finding as we initially conference and then again for revision, they are naturally seeing errors in capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc. and fixing it on the fly. The more advanced the writer, the more they see as they reread. I never hold them accountable for perfection. I hold them accountable for trying.

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  9. I taught a mixed grade of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students so could rarely do conventions whole class, usually broke any direct instruction into mini-lessons that three or four needed. Bit by bit, I knew what they knew, which made it easier. I guess what I’m trying to say, Ruth is that it is integrated into workshop just as the other kinds of writing is.
    How can whole classes be taught the conventions when only the middle may need it?

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  10. I thought I should jump back in to the discussion to clarify my statement of “saving editing for last”. I have worked with to many teachers who say they are teaching writing but really are teaching editing. I ask them to let student develop their ideas, their craft and voice before we go after conventions. I hate to have students say they fear writing because they struggle with conventions.

    I am a chapter or two into Jeff Anderson’s book Mechanically Inclined so I am excited to see how that will influence my thinking

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  11. I have loved Jeff Anderson’s book since I first read them (Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined). They seem to be a natural complement to the workshop philosophy and support the “read like a writer” process, as well as experimenting with own writing and raising a sense of awareness of conventions (and other aspects).

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  12. I feel like it’s hard to “make time” for editing/conventions teaching when there is so much we want to teach about structure, elaboration, and craft… (Is it the “eating your vegetables” of teaching writing…?) Gardenlearning’s comment makes me wonder about “saving editing work for last.” I feel like this does students a disservice, because writing with good spelling and punctuation needs to be cultivated as a habit, and when we leave it for last, we make this nearly impossible–one can’t cultivate a habit in one or two days of focus! I actually really enjoy teaching conventions–there’s something very concrete and “coach-able” about that work, while teaching other aspects of writing can feel more elusive and subjective…

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  13. I am always pushing teacher to wait with students – save working with conventions until last. But the question is when is last? When do we moved from content editing to convention editing?

    I don’t think there is a clear line. It is an person to person decision not really a whole class lesson. Yet I wonder when is it good to set up some mini lesson on those last minute editing issues – spelling, punctuation rules – like commas, etc. Good think to wonder about!

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