Most high school curricula require students to develop critical thinking skills that they demonstrate by being able to both peer- and self-edit written work. Developing the ability to look closely and critically at one’s own work is difficult. Helping students to see the component parts of a piece of writing and analyse each bit at a time can help.
Ultimately, what we’re talking about here is scaffolding the self-editing process. How can we provide support for students in a way that helps them to see the component parts of good writing, analyse each part, and slowly, but surely develop the skills and confidence to begin to self-edit and critique their own writing?
Academic writing, especially expository and analytical writing, can be evaluated holistically. A holistic analysis does not pick apart whether the syntax is clunky or the ideation rudimentary, but rather a holistic analysis looks at the essay or piece of writing as a whole and evaluates its success.
Holistic analysis of middle- and secondary-school writing is very hard for students to be able to do. It takes a degree of technical mastery over writing and emotional maturity to step back and analyse a piece of writing in its entirety. Heck, it is often hard for professional writers and editors to be able to look at a completed whole and provide meaningful feedback or critique.
However, what students at this level can master, is the ability to look at the component parts of a piece of writing and begin to work through a check-list of items in each category to begin to gauge success.
The component parts of a piece of writing are commonly considered: Content, Style, Organisation/Structure, and Mechanics (Spelling & Grammar).
If students can begin to see what each of these components looks like, then they can begin to edit their own work accordingly.
Below is an example of a helpful checklist. If you’d like to download it and share it with your students
Students can then use the blank space to add any comments that they might need to clarify where they were strong or weak in any area.
Peer- and self-editing skills ultimately help students to become stronger and better writers. As well, by becoming better editors, students see the formative nature of writing as a process of continuous revision and improvement.
After all, we’re all works in progress, right?