Helping students learn to write

Over at Hey Mister, a teacher shares his method of working with student writing. It is really easy and simple and, possibly, quite effective. He reads until he gets to the first “problem” and then makes an X. He then gives it back to the student to revise. Next draft, he does the same. Eventually, students seem to figure out that it is easier to make an effort and try to do it right the first time. Or at least the second or third!

I really like this idea. I have heard it before, but I haven’t heard as good an explanation and justification before. He does it because he was plagued by questions like these:

How do we get kids to actually worry about the work they produce? How do we get them to work through draft after draft of a paper in search of perfection?

… questions that, of course, all of us who teach writing ask. I love the idea, and I think it would work.

But I wonder about my students – adult second language learners. I would have really limit what I marked. They don’t have the proficiency with the language they would need to be able to decide what was wrong every time there was an error. But surely, if we are working on a particular verb tense and I marked an X the first time I found an error of that type, they should be able to fix it. With help, at least. And then, they could be responsible for finding the other mistakes of that type before I look at it again.

My Intermediate students are writing this term, focusing on different verb tenses as a way of review. This would be a great opportunity to try this. I think I will.

Thanks to Bud for the link to the blog.

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One thought on “Helping students learn to write

  1. John says:

    I could see this working with paragraphs that the students submit electronically. Using Word’s markup capability through track changes, I could return the paragraph with the location of the error highlighted. I wish I had seen this earlier to try it with a class I have this semester that doesn’t seem engaged in this process. I think it would be best after the student has written the paragraph because then they can focus on grammar more. It is certainly worth a try. Thank you for sharing it.

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