Educators: Setting self-review assignments

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 you can do so via this link. 

Student self-review worksheet


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?



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