Aim Higher Blog Series · editing · goals · writing workshop

Aim Higher: Setting Goals for Editing

Aim Higher Blog SeriesAs a classroom teacher, I did not feel completely confident in my students’ ability to self-edit their work.  I would teach a minilesson on an editing convention, and we would add it to our growing Class Editing Checklist.  We had an anchor chart hanging prominently in our classroom, and each student had a smaller version of the Class Editing Checklist in their writing folder.  Sure, some kids became better at editing, but not all kids.  Then, I read Nancie Atwell’s Lessons that Change Writers, and everything changed.

Nancie recommends using an Individual Proofreading List for every student.  Here is how it worked in my classroom.   Each student had an Individual Proofreading List in their writing folder.  The first two rules were the same for all students:

1.  Obvious stuff.  I taught 5th grade, so for us this meant capital letters at the beginning of a sentence and ending punctuation on every sentence.

2.  Circle every word I am not 100% sure how to spell.


For the first few weeks of school, these items were our only two editing concerns.  I taught several minilessons around these two items.  For example, I modeled how to check each and every sentence for a capital letter and ending punctuation.  I modeled how to check each and every word for a possible misspelling.  I also taught several minilessons around what to do with the circled words (use a dictionary, try margin spelling, break the word into parts).

Then (and this is the best part), the lists got personal.  As I reviewed each student’s writing, I would add a personal, individualized goal to their Individual Proofreading List.  I would write the goal on a Post-It note, and the student would copy it on his or her master Individual Proofreading List.  So, the third item was different for almost every student.  One student’s might read, “Check every contraction for an apostrophe,” while another student’s might read, “Vary sentence beginnings.”  Another student’s might read, “Capitalize proper nouns.”


Each student would focus on those errors which were identified in his or her own writing, rather than a class list of conventions.  Once a student showed improvement with that particular convention, we would add another.  Therefore, in my classroom in December, some students’ Individual Proofreading Lists contained four items, while other students’ lists contained seven items.

The Individual Proofreading List never left a student’s writing folder.  So when a student was ready to turn in a final draft, he or she would attach a completed Editing Checklist to the top of the draft.

These were usually copied on green paper.
These were usually copied on green paper.

These blank Editing Checklists were readily available in our writing center.  Students would copy their editing conventions from their ongoing Individual Proofreading List and then place a checkmark to show each item was completed.

You might be thinking this seems like lot of editing goals to keep track of, but the responsibility was really on each individual student.  As the Editor In Chief of our classroom, my job was to help students identify convention errors in their writing.  I would conduct one-on-one conferences to teach students the proper convention.  However, the students were responsible for updating and maintaining their Individual Proofreading List.  And you know what?  It worked.  This method helped us outgrow editing goals which weren’t working and set new ones.

Please join us on Monday evening, February 2nd when we host a Twitter Chat about aiming higher with our students.  The chat will begin at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Just search and tag #TWTBlog to participate.


Aim Higher Twitter Chat -- Two Writing Teachers


10 thoughts on “Aim Higher: Setting Goals for Editing

    1. Great question. As I wrote in my post, the management of the individual lists really belongs to the students themselves, once you’ve taught them the process. As far as teaching the various conventions to 110 students, I would recommend grouping students according to need. I would envision reading through a class set of drafts, identifying 3-5 areas of need, teaching those conventions in small groups, and then those groups of students adding the new “rule” to their individual sheets. I think this would help with management. Hope that makes sense.


  1. So great that each child’s needs are being met. I am wondering how the kids use this information. Do they identify and correct the errors in the piece or in grade 5 do they use this to rewrite a final draft? I am in the early years (K & 1) an am thinking how this could be used so that it appropriate for our students. For those that are ready, I can see using it to identify areas to work on, correcting right on the piece and then maybe having it out as a reference as the students work on their next piece. Other thoughts on this?


  2. This is wonderful! I loved how you shared a step by step description of what happened with the students. The process sounds pretty painless 🙂 I can’t wait to implement this with our students. Thanks again for sharing!!


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