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What follows is a list of eight tips that Doug Stark has written for guiding teachers to use these exercises to the greatest effect possible.
Tip 1: Where possible, give your students a physical copy of the punctuation handbook.
Give your students a copy of the punctuation handbook (included with your purchase of Editing Practice that Sticks is a separate “student notebook” file). If you already require students to have a three-ring binder, the punctuation handbook will be easy to incorporate into your classroom routine. If you do not require students to have a three-ring binder, it's worth considering. In August each year, I buy cheap, three-prong folders when they're on sale at the local stores; I insert the punctuation handbook into these and then distribute the folders at the start of the year.
The punctuation handbook includes copies of the guided notes for each unit. Each unit begins with guided notes, and students are encouraged to refer to these notes frequently.
Tip 2: Begin each unit with direct instruction through the guided notes.
Use direct instruction at the beginning of each unit to introduce the appropriate note pages in the punctuation handbook. Introduce the key concepts and complete the practice exercise with the students.
When I introduce the note pages, I do the following:
- Have all students open their punctuation handbooks to the appropriate page.
- Have all students get out a pencil. They are expected to take notes with me as I read through and explain the rules.
- I put the notes (rules) up on the data projector. I read through the examples with the students and make some brief notations. For instance, if I am discussing complete sentences, I might label the subject and verb.
- After we cover the rules, I give students a set amount of time to complete the practice exercise individually. I have an egg timer that I use. I can pop it up on the data projector. I have found that using the timer is very effective. It creates a sense of urgency and focus.
- I walk around the room, monitoring student progress and answering questions as necessary.
- After the beeper goes off, I have the students partner up. I have a list of rotating partners that I use in my classroom, but you can simply have students work with an elbow partner — whatever works best in your classroom. I give the students a few minutes to compare answers. I always tell students to discuss disagreements and try to figure out who is right.
- After a few minutes, I go over the answers with the students. I use index cards with student names on them to randomly choose students to call on. THIS STEP IS ESSENTIAL. Students learn very quickly that they will be called on, and they will have to provide an answer. If a student tells me that he/she does not know or did not complete the exercise (this almost never happens), I tell him/her to take a minute and complete the work. I stand up and quietly make it obvious that I am moving that student's index card back a few positions; this communicates that the student will be called on in a minute or two. By the time I come back to the student, he/she has completed the task.
Tip 3: Use the editing practice activities as you see appropriate for your students, and keep a special eye out for opportunities to apply these activities to current writing assignments.
After you complete the introductory notes, you can use the editing activities I have provided at your discretion. I have included four editing activities per unit. The first six units are designed to be taught in order (each unit builds on the previous unit). The last two units are stand-alone units (use them whenever it makes sense). Each of the activities has a front and a back. These activities are designed to provide some brief instruction on the focus area prior to students writing or editing. Each of the activities includes a space for a timed written response. (I call it a quickwrite. I know that is not an actual word, but I like that name).
However, you do NOT need to use the quickwrites with every editing activity. Feel free to sub in the focus area checklist if you want to edit a current piece of writing. For example, if we have a paragraph due from the previous night, I simply print the focus area checklist on the backside of the activity. After we finish the activity, I have the students get out their paragraphs and apply the focus area checklist to their homework. Directly connecting these activities to student writing is essential if you want to see carryover from the exercises to the students’ actual work.
Tip 4: Understand how active, engaged editors are developed.
The idea behind these activities is that before a student can edit effectively, he/she needs to have some background knowledge, an understanding of how to apply that knowledge, and an opportunity to use that knowledge to edit his/her writing or the writing of others.
Use these brief editing activities as you see fit. I have placed them on separate pages so you can mix and match, or if you already use Mechanics Instruction That Sticks, you can replace or supplement instruction. Do not feel like you must use all four activities in every unit. The basic purpose of these activities is to train the students to be active, engaged editors of text.
Tip 5: The focus area checklists can be used in different ways depending on the length of writing assignment your students are working on.
Use the focus area checklist to edit for one type of error. I use these checklists to quickly edit shorter homework assignments, even ones that I will be grading for credit only. The idea is to keep reinforcing the rules and tying them to student writing.
If you are working on a longer essay, you might want to set up focus groups for editing. You could give different small groups (three to six kids) a different area of focus along with a checklist. For instance, you might have a group looking for fragments, a group looking for comma errors, a group looking for run-ons, and a group looking for basic errors.
Tip 6: For completed drafts, use the included comprehensive checklists.
Use the comprehensive checklists with completed drafts. I have set up the checklists so you’re always cycling back to previous areas of focus. Determine how much guidance you want to give as you go through these checklists with students.
One suggestion: before you use one of the comprehensive checklists, highlight a few of the areas that are really giving kids problems. Go over those steps on the checklist with the kids and have them edit for them as a whole class. Here are the procedures I would use.
- Put the checklist up on the data projector. Direct all students to the first step on the checklist that you have chosen. Read through the checklist with the students and quickly demonstrate what you want kids to look for. Often, I will put a kid’s paper up on the data projector and model how I want them to look for this error.
- Put a few minutes on the timer. Give kids time to self and/or peer edit for this error.
- Walk around the room, helping as needed. Make sure all students are editing.
- Have students discuss what they noticed with an elbow partner when the timer goes off.
- If you want, you can call on a few students to share what they found.
- Repeat this process with a few steps on the checklist.
- After you have gone over a few steps on the checklist, have students complete the rest of the checklist (self-editing or peer editing).
Tip 7: When possible, have students self-edit before peer editing.
I always try to have students self-edit prior to peer editing. Depending on the length of the assignment and the time available, I will adjust my processes. On a longer essay, we will self-edit and peer edit on separate days. If we are working on a short piece (one or two paragraphs), I will have kids self-edit and peer edit in class. The more you edit, the more efficient your procedures become. The comprehensive checklist gets long, so you can also get kids started on the self-editing in class and then assign the rest of the checklist as homework. Then, kids can peer edit the next day.
Final tip: Do what makes sense!
Please feel free to adapt these activities and editing checklists in whatever way you think makes sense. You might add parts of a checklist to a current, assignment-specific checklist you already have. You might combine checklists or pick certain areas from different checklists. DO WHATEVER MAKES SENSE to you. Please do not feel like these activities or checklists are a program or a system. They are a series of activities that should help your students become better editors. I have tried to organize them in a logical fashion, but one size does not fit all in education.
These books are designed to be used at the seventh- to twelfth-grade level. I have tried to set them up in a way that would make it easy for groups of teachers to match up different focus areas with existing units of instruction. The checklists are designed to encourage the reteaching of conventions.
If you already own Mechanics Instruction That Sticks and use the warm-ups, you can use these exercises as a replacement or a supplement for any or all of those exercises. Again, please use your best judgment. I put this together because I wanted to provide teachers with exercises that directly connect to the frequent writing experiences that students are having in their classrooms.
My goal in creating these editing books is to SAVE TEACHERS TIME. If these activities make it easier for you to quickly and efficiently teach kids how to become better writers, then I will be a very happy man.
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