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How to Teach Children to Edit Their Own Papers

Think about editing for a moment.

All it involves is going back through something written and looking for two things:

1. Any mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

2. Any ways to say a sentence or phrase better (as needed or desired). Both of these are much easier to do if the child reads his/her own paper out loud.

Reading it out loud is exactly what works because writing has always been about getting someone else to read your work the WAY you want it read. This best comes about through SOUND! When we read our own writing the way it is written, we can see things to change with much greater ease…it is often obvious. It isn’t a perfect approach, but it helps a great deal…especially as this ‘feedback loop’ aides in hooking up your child’s brain (visual and auditory).

Try this: Before you grade / correct the next writing assignment (even copy work), have them go off by themselves and read the paper out load, making any ‘tweaks’ they want to. I bet you’ll see the mistakes drop and the quality go up! I sometimes find so many mistakes (for that child) that I ask, “Did you read this out loud?” Often they admit they didn’t…so I send them off to really edit. Other times, I just send them off to edit again if it is loaded with mistakes. I don’t want to take their own opportunity to learn to edit away…and I don’t want to waste my time doing their responsibility.

Bless you,

Fred Lybrand

P.S. Yes, I read this out loud!

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Typos: Lighten Up or Your Kids Will Never Write

I may be overstating my point, but I see people obsessing on Typos in their writing, reading, and editing…I mean, literally obsessing.  Honestly, it isn’t worth it and it really isn’t that important.  Worse yet obsessing on typos— it can really damage a young writer.  I hear how awful typos are a lot from educators, parents, and the occasional passerby.  I don’t hear the same complaint from real writers.

A few days ago, I got a note from someone who had visited my Writing Course site.  This person wrote these words:

If there weren’t so many typographical errors on your webpage, I might have been interested in this for our son.

Well, I could get defensive, but I’m actually glad to know about them.  You see, I believe that no one ever writes things perfectly to begin with…in fact, trying to write perfectly is the number one reason children don’t write much at all.  Imagine if you had to write a paper word-perfect from the very beginning!  Well, it is that attitude that subtly creeps into the lives of our children as we teach them anything.  They don’t realize that ‘you can’t start with perfect’ is not only a good saying, it is also a good motto.

We teach kids to write in 3 Stages: OK…GET HELP…MAKE IT GREAT.  If they just try to write something OK to begin with, they do the single thing they MUST DO to learn to write– they start to write!

Well, here was my response.  I hope it was gracious, but I haven’t heard back.  Of course, this person and I may just have a disagreement about this topic.

Thanks for your input. I appreciate the concern about typos.  I love to clean them up myself and almost never find a published book that doesn’t have a few.  Typos are really about editing rather than writing. And, while I am embarrassed, I do know that this is the very thing that often keeps people from learning how to write.  Many great writers where notorious as poor spellers, but again, that’s what editors are for.

If your son has a steady diet of having to get everything word-perfect, he will have a tough time getting on to the business of writing.  Typos are not grammar mistakes or style mistakes…they are the very things humans have a hard time seeing (that is why it takes many to eyes catch them all).

The first thing we teach is how to move from writing OK…to getting help…to writing Great.  Unless we learn to write this way, we never learn to write at all.

I’ll make sure the typos are cleaned up.

Bless you in you labors for your son,

Now, honestly there were a number of typos like ‘the’ before The Writing Course.  How was this missed?  I have no idea, jeepers!  And yet, if our kids learn to come to us and accept correction matter-of-factly, then they will be able to receive feedback for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, if we are constantly badgering them about the ‘mistakes’ in their papers, then they’ll just learn to avoid writing like the plague.  Writing isn’t easy.  Writing must be learned.  And, even great writers have editors the count on to catch every mistake!

I beg you to practice lightening up about typos…especially in texts and on the web.  Do you get their point?  Do you make typos and don’t see them yourself?

I’m not saying we should not have standards and edit our papers well, but I’m just saying…



Fred Lybrand

P.S. Please comment with typos you see and I’ll fix them 🙂

P.P.S.  As a further thought, the New York Times just blogged this op-ed called The Price of Typos …here’s a quote:

Before digital technology unsettled both the economics and the routines of book publishing, they explained, most publishers employed battalions of full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes. Now, they are gone.