Sunday, November 22, 2015

Taking the Pain Out of Editing and Revising

Editing and revising can be so difficult with students.

It can be be straight up painful.

As in Dr. Pepper and M&M's stat in order to survive.  Amiright?

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I ever mastered teaching this area and my students' writing was flawless.  However, I did discover a few tips to make it less painful.  So I could drink Dr Pepper instead of booze.  Just kidding. Kind of.

So let's dive into those suggestions and save the M&M's of the world.

I know most people are already rolling their eyes before even reading this section.  We all talk about expectations when writing ALL.THE.TIME.  

Here is another spin on it.  Choose a mentor text that is wonderful for the text type or genre.  It can be another student's writing or a published children's book.  After reading it with students, analyze the writing to figure out WHY it is so good.

Then, create an anchor chart listing all the elements.  This can be posted as a guide for students.  These are the elements that THEIR writing needs to have.  Since they helped CREATE the expectations, they are more likely to apply them.

You can also print small copies of the checklist and have students look over their own writing before publishing to make sure they have these elements in their own stories and writings.

When teaching writing it is so tempting to try to teach it ALLLLLLLLL- interesting characters, sequencing, great leads, end marks, commas in a series, punctuation dialogue, and the list goes on and on.

Time is precious and short.  Focus your instruction.  For every published piece choose ONE revising skill and ONE editing skill to teach an explicit mini lesson on. Then, have students apply that skill in their writing.

Create a running list.  Here is an example of the revising list from 4th grade.

Each time we learned a new revising skill we added it to the anchor chart.  The chart hung up year round.  It was pretty short in the beginning of the year, but by the end, it was full (you can't even see it all in this pic!).  

Students were required to use the list to revise and edit and as the list got longer, so did the expectations.

When considering which revising and editing skill to teach for each published piece, try to make sure they best fit the writing type or genre and can easily piggyback on each other.

For example, when teaching narratives, teach students how to add dialogue as a revision technique and then how to punctuate quotations as the editing skill.

When teaching informational writing, teach students how to use adjectives and adverbs to modify nouns and verbs.  It is easy to choose adjectives and verbs to describe animals and people, which many teachers choose for research projects. 

You can read how I taught students to revise with adjectives and adverbs when writing about Jimmy Carter here.

I always require students to revise and edit their own work before peer editing.  It is much easier to let someone else find all the mistakes, right ;)?

First, I have students read aloud their own writing to their partner. This can help them catch mistakes they may have missed.  It can also help if your students are struggling writers and the writing is very hard for others (especially kids) to read.  It gives everyone a more even playing field if they have heard the story first. 

I have assigned peer editors to kids and I have also let kids chosen.  I am not sure it really makes a huge difference, UNLESS it is an exceptional case.  If the child is a VERY high or VERY low writer, you may want to consider hand picking a partner.

Also, don't always make your strong writers conference with weaker writers.  It is not their job to always be the teacher.  Consider putting higher students together so they can push each other even further.

I do suggest having students use a checklist for peer editing or it just becomes a hot mess. There are tons of great, FREE checklists on TpT.  

Here are a few of my favorite  FREE ones!

I like this ESL Peer Editing checklist by crunchy apples because it is color coded and easy to read.

These checklists by Jodi are great because she has several different ones that match different types of writing, they save paper, and are short and to the point for beginning writers.

This is another great checklist by Katie Crystal that includes color coding. 

I really liked this one by Siri Hamilton because she included EXAMPLES of how to revise and edit. 

I may sound like a broken record, but I do believe in holding the kids accountable. If the piece of writing is going through the writing process, I like to have editing conferences with students before they publish. The problem with this is that I feel like I am fixing their mistakes for them and that means I am doing the work.  I want the KIDS to do the work.

I leaned this great tip from a veteran teacher while ago. Conference with the kids and help them edit the paper for more difficult errors- especially things like sequence or verb agreement or plural nouns.  However, all our kids should be held accountable for capitalizing sentences and using end marks, but we all know that just doesn't happen. Boo.

So here is my tip.  Tell students that every time you notice a missing capitalize letter or end mark, you will put a tally mark at the end of that line on the paper. Students then must go back and find the incorrect capital or missing punctuation mark.

This does two things.  It puts the work back on the students.  It gives them a visual cue to help them isolate the error so they are not overwhelmed by the whole piece- they know the error is on that line somewhere.  It also becomes a visual cue- if their paper is filled with tally marks at the end, maybe they need to work on their editing and be more careful (if they are careless writers).

 I think many students just aren't cognizant of how often and careless they really are- it is not an ability issue. This can be a gentle wake up call for some students. 

Did I miss any tips?  Do you have any great tips for strategies to help with editing and revising in your classroom?  I would love to know!

You can see the other posts in this series below.


I hope this post gave you some a few helpful hints to trouble shoot your writing time!  If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Teaching Nonfiction {Informational Text}

I must be crazy.  I love teaching informational text.  There is just SO much out there and you can do so much with it! And kids NEED it.  So much of the text students are expected to access is informational. 

So, how can you teach informational text?

Here are a few tips to get started!

Really take the time to dive into the features.  Student may recognize a text feature, but not be able to name it, or even more importantly, discuss its importance.  

Readers need to know the purpose for each feature so they know how to "unlock" them and use them for additional information.

Keep a running list of all the text features you have learned about.  This keeps the terms fresh in every one's mind.

To start our informational unit in third grade, we listed all the names of features students brainstormed during the mini lesson.  I pretty much just asked kids what text features they had heard of before.  I wrote them around the heart.  As we introduced or reviewed each text feature over the course of the unit, I highlighted it on the chart. I also added any new features that were not brainstormed.

Have students looked for text features while they are reading.  Have students mark the page with a post it note and write how it helped them as a reader.  Then, photocopy the best examples of text features and create a class chart.

Here is one we created in third grade.

Here is another example we created in second grade.

I got lucky and found an old Scholastic Newspaper that had several features that we cut up.

This keeps kids constantly on the lookout for text features as they are reading AND thinking about them as a reader.

I have done this several different ways in my class.  We have created a text features book as a whole class.  I modeled using and finding the features with my own text feature book with a big book.  I made it out of half sheets of poster board and then bound it with binder rings.

I included the name of the convention, its definition, and what the reader learned using the feature/ convention.

You can find a blank copy of the Nonfiction Convention book above in my Nonfiction Features Unit.

Students can create their own book using any informational books  from their own book boxes.  It is a perfect activity for independent work during reading centers. The unit includes several other things like posters with examples, matching card game, and an assessment.

If you are looking for a similar activity, but without all the searching, check out my Animal Bites series.

Students read an informational article, answer comprehension questions, and find the main idea.  I specifically wrote each article to include as many text features as possible.

After students read they article they can actually CUT the article up to create a text feature book! I reduced the article so both pages fit on one page to save copies ;).  No more hunting for copies of features!  It is all in one place!

Right now I have the following articles in this series and I hope to add more.  ALL of them have text feature hunt books!



The BEST part about informational text is that you can use it to tie in social studies and science. I shared several ideas (and some freebies)  over at the Primary Peach!

In second grade we had to study famous Georgia figures.  Our social Studies series came with these wonderful big books.  I often used them in reading AND in social studies.

We went through the big book and labeled the text features with post it notes.  Then, we created questions using the table of contents and answered them as we read.  

In third grade, we found the main idea of the Frederick Douglass readers.

And then we turned the ideas into a paragraph about each figure.

In second grade we did something similar, but created a web to organize student thinking. We did this over several days- each color, or main idea of each section, was done a different day.

I hope this post gave you some a few helpful hints to trouble shoot your writing time!  If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!

Monday, November 16, 2015

5 Ways to Support Struggling Writers

So, we have talked all about the mini lesson, and independent writing time and conferencing with kids...but what do you do if the kids WON'T write?

We have all been there.  The kid that is a reluctant writer because they struggle or truly have no ideas.  How can we help them?

Here are a few tips to support those kids that just can't get started!

One of my most favorite lessons in the beginning of the school year is my heart map lesson.  It is actually part of my launching Writing Workshop lessons.  You can get them free here.

I like to use the book My Map Book by Fanelli to introduce the concept of different kinds of maps.

After reading the book, I model how to create a heart map.  You can find the lesson and free printable here.

After completing this lesson, students fold the map in half and glue one side into their writer's notebook.  This creates a bank of ideas for students to draw from if they can't come up with an idea.

Another novel idea for creating a bank of ideas is having students create a map of their life.  This idea was shared by Jivey on her blog.

Students can draw a map of an important place (life their street or neighborhood, as Jivey shows above). Then, they can add post it notes of things that happened in each place and then write a small moments story. If students are stuck, it is yet another place to draw ideas from.

In the beginning of the school year, we actually brainstorm a bank of ideas students can write about and refer to all year long. We do this as a whole class.

Here are two examples from third and fourth grade.

Two Tall Teachers created this FREE  bank of ideas for students.  You can print out one per students and glue it in the back of their writer's notebook for reference. 

Jennifer from Jennifer's Teaching Tools has SEVERAL AWESOME freebies for starting Writer's Notebooks. She has this FREE bank of ideas.

There have been some years where my students GREATLY struggled with organizing their thoughts when writing.  In addition to LOTS of modeling, I have also provided text frames.  Text frames can basically be fill in the blank writing.  This can be the very BOTTOM of the scaffolding process and be gently removed as students progress in their writing. 

I wrote about using text frames for responding to literature here.  You can click on the pictures to grab the freebies!

While, graphic organizers are not text frames, they can be great guides for students in writing.  This graphic organizer is pretty guided.  I shared this for FREE when I wrote about exploring narrative writing here.

One way to support writers is to provide a common experience they can write from.  This can be writing about an assembly, field trip, or even a classroom experience.  It can even be creating a craft and writing about it.  The idea is that this is done upfront to provide students with support in creating ideas.

In my Nounster unit, students created a "nounster," or monster.  you can read all about this project FREE here.

In my Cowboy End of Year Unit, students create a cowboy character paper doll to write about.  You can get all of the templates and more here.

I hope this post gave you some a few helpful hints to support your struggling writers!

You can see the other posts in this series below.


  If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to catch all the freebies and ideas and more!