How to Review Writing
When teaching writing, a teacher’s main goal is to help students become proficient writers capable of effective written communication. A key to helping students become proficient writers is to teach them how to review writing and make needed changes.
How, though, do you get your students to do this? Teachers know that most students are perfectly content to hurriedly skim their papers and pronounce that, yes, they are perfect. However, there are a few ways to get your students to evaluate their own work fairly and competently. Following is a lesson idea that will help your students learn to effectively evaluate their own writing.
Tips to Keep in Mind
The first thing to remember is to hold your students accountable for their evaluations. You cannot trust them to evaluate their papers simply because you said to do so. Create a rubric and assess their evaluation.
Keep in mind that this evaluation, or self-reflection, is different from revising and editing because it should be done after the essay has been completed and is an overall review of their writing. (Read more about revision and editing.)
1) Before students begin their writing assignment, have them brainstorm what they think belongs in a well-written essay. Record their ideas. I usually make a list and give each student a copy. This provides them with a sense of ownership because they have helped determine part of their assignment.
2) Using the students’ list, your own ideas of what should be included in the essay, and the rubric generate a list of very specific questions that your students will use to review their writing. There is no need to wait until they have finished the assignment to give this to them. They should be able to use it while they are actually writing. The more specific the questions, the more successful your students will be. For example, if the assignment was a descriptive essay, don’t ask if they feel like they did a good job describing. Rather, ask them to write the sentence they feel is most descriptive and why.
3) Some more examples of what you may want to include on the self-evaluation:
- What is your strongest part if your essay? Give an example.
- What is one area where you feel you need extra instruction? Give an example.
- What is your best example of figurative language?
- Give an example of where you use advanced punctuation.
Self-reflection and evaluation leads to better writing over time. It helps students feel more confident in their writing abilities. I usually choose to have my students self-evaluate rather than peer-evaluate. I have found that as long as they know exactly what they are looking for, their self-evaluations are much more thoughtful than their peer-evaluations. It also helps alleviate the stress many struggling writers feel since they don’t have to face the pressure of their classmates reading their papers.
While many students will balk when they are assigned to review writing, remember that over time, it will make them better writers. Also remember that the more specific your questions, the more effective your students’ evaluations will be.