Writing is a process, and Díaz Ramírez (2014) gives the steps as follows: “brainstorming, planning, multiple drafting, peer collaboration, delayed editing, and portfolio assessment” (p.34). However, our students perceive writing differently and often skip a few of these steps. Editing is one of these skipped steps.
Editing is one of the vital skills I teach in my higher education communication courses. Interestingly, however, when I ask my students how often they edit, the answers I hear are as follows: “sometimes” and “almost never”. Also, when I ask what tools students use to edit their work, they often seem to be unsure of an existing tool. This is when I introduce Track Changes in Microsoft and the Suggesting Mode in Google docs.
21st Century Learning
As educators, we might assume that since we are teaching students in the 21st century, our students are skilled at using technology in their lives; however, they are often unaware of what EdTech tools they can implement in their learning.
A little side note here: this is also the time I find out some students are unaware that their post-secondary institutions provide them with free Microsoft Office. You should see how grateful they are when they find this out.
Editing Tools and Tips
Now that everyone is equipped with the right editing tools, the fun can begin. The first step is to show them what magic Track Changes in Office or Suggesting Mode in Google Docs can do. By modeling a few editing steps, utilizing Track Changes, the magic gets started. Students are often excited when they see the affordances of this tool and the amount of engagement they can add to their learning. This modeling step motivates students to start using the tool for their own writing pieces. I introduce this tool early on in the semester and implement it in my classes in a few different ways.
- Provide a Writing Piece: Provide students with a short paragraph and require them to individually make as many changes as possible within 10 minutes. Next, I place students in groups of 3 or 4 to share their changes, confer in groups, produce one finalized piece as a group, and share their revised piece with me (15 min- 30 min). This is followed by each group presenting their revised piece to the class, while I project their revised piece on the projector or screen-share online while they present.
- Share a Student’s Writing Piece: Assign a short writing prompt and require learners to arrive prepared with a short paragraph next class. Having introduced the tool to students, I place students in groups of 3/4 and request one person to volunteer and share their writing piece with the group. Then, we follow the same steps in #1.
- Zoom Sessions: Being affected by the pandemic, and having had to teach many classes on Zoom, I have been taking advantage of the Zoom breakout room feature to place students in groups and assigning them editing bits ( #1 or 2) to work on Google Docs Suggested Mode. Students then choose a group member as a presenter to present the changes they have made to the writing piece.
- Editing Competition: When students feel more comfortable with editing and proofreading, I step away from group editing to individual editing. The rule of this activity is that I share a writing piece with everyone and allow them to read and jot down as many mistakes as they can in their personal notes (5 min). Next, I either go around the class and have each student make a correction to the piece or ask for volunteers. Students who can point out a mistake correctly will be in the winner group. The game continues and I keep sharing different pieces until I have one or a few winners left. This activity could go as long as the class time and the curriculum allow.
I have always received great feedback from this approach in teaching writing and editing.
Teaching English and ESL to adults in higher education has always made me think of innovative strategies to engage learners in the process of writing. What strategies do you incorporate to engage your learners in editing and reflecting on their writing pieces?
- Díaz Ramírez, M. (2014). The impact of project work and the writing process method on writing production. How, 21(2), 31-53.