Teaching Children to Revise Their Written Work

By Huntington Learning Center

 As a student, part of the process of becoming a better writer is learning to revise one’s written work. “For many children, revising is difficult, and for good reason,” says Eileen Huntington, co-founder of Huntington Learning Center. “When a child crafts an essay, for example, he or she invests a lot of energy into collecting his or her thoughts, organizing them, and writing them in a coherent and compelling way. Completing a draft feels like a monumental feat, so it’s tempting to spell check and call it done, but revising is a critical part of the writing process.”

Huntington encourages parents to work with their children on revising their written work—and to talk with them about what revising actually means. Here are five ways to help your child revise well:

Explain that revision is different than proofreading or editing. As your child becomes a more experienced writer, he or she must learn to understand the differences between revision and proofreading or editing. Revision addresses organization, focus and purpose, and helps a writer assess whether he or she addresses an audience appropriately and explains his or her thoughts clearly and logically. Editing is the process of reviewing a piece for errors, word choice, clarity, tone and the like. Proofreading is the final quality check for correct spelling and proper punctuation and capitalization.

Break writing into steps. Young students are taught that writing involves developing an idea and putting it on paper. But advanced writers understand that a finished piece should be polished—an impossibility if that piece has not been carefully revised at least once. Your child should think of the writing process as six separate steps, each of which is important:

  1. Planning/outlining
  2. Writing
  3. Revising
  4. Editing
  5. Proofreading
  6. Final read-through

Think big picture. Adding or deleting words isn’t revising. Discuss your child’s written work on a conceptual level. If he or she is trying to convince the reader of something in an essay, it is important to ask pertinent questions when revising that essay. Is the argument well thought out? How did he or she support that argument? Is there information in the essay that, at second look, does not need to be there? Overall, revision is about making writing stronger.

Show your child how to revise. Read a newspaper article or essay with your child (try asking his or her teacher for suggestions, too). Then, ask questions—did the introduction make you want to keep reading? Was the main point clear? Point out areas you think were confusing or not as strong as they could be, and offer suggestions on how you would try to improve those areas.

Teach your child that revision is about being objective. A good reminder to the young writer is that revision isn’t about tearing his or her work to shreds. Rather, revision is about improving an argument, strengthening an article’s supporting points and making one’s writing as good as it can be. Point out the good parts of your child’s first draft before launching into a discussion of the areas that need work. Remind your child that good writing requires patience and practice. Most of all, encourage your child to view his or her work with fresh eyes during revision and to be open to new ideas throughout the process.