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How to Teach Students to Self-Edit Their Writing

Students who learn to write for communicating meaning at first may not be aware of what editing is, so the teacher should take the time to explain the process of editing to them telling that the piece of writing doesn’t have to be perfect from the start and that it is possible for all writers to make changes to their work. Teachers should start by allowing students to self-correct by doing the following:

  1. Encouraging students to read their work out loud and then asking them if they feel comfortable with their writing or if they feel it is missing anything.

  2. Asking them if they think there are any words that are spelled incorrectly.

While encouraging students to self-correct, teachers should consider the following:

  • Focusing first on ideas generated, then moving on to the clarity of these ideas and end with accuracy.

  • Too many corrections may be enough to discourage the student, so first concentrate on getting clear ideas, regardless of the form and spelling. Once the student has gained confidence in this area, a move to the next step in editing should be done.

  • Supporting students in making corrections by teaching them how to use the dictionary and/or spell check.

  • Distributing or hanging an editing checklist on the wall in front of students encouraging them to look at it frequently when doing their self-correction.

Here is an example of an editing checklist for students to use:

1. Mechanics

  • The first word in every sentence is capitalized.
  • All proper nouns are capitalized.
  • Each sentence written ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
  • All words are spelled correctly.
  • The beginning of each new paragraph is indented.

2. Grammar

  • Each sentence is a complete thought with a subject and a verb.

  • There are no run-on sentences.

  • Subjects and verbs agree in number.

  • When pronouns are used, they clearly refer to someone or thing.

  • Verb tenses are used consistently unless a change is required.

3. Style

  • The sentence length is varied.

  • Clear, interesting, colorful, precise words are used.

  • Unnecessary words were cut out.

And, here is a suggested rubric for teachers to base the assessment of their students’ writing on:


Well done


Improvement needed


* Writing has an engaging introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a strong conclusion.

* Every main idea has its own paragraph.

* Introduction and conclusion are present, but not effective.

* Sometimes more than one idea per paragraph.

* No introduction or conclusion, just body paragraphs.

* No clear main ideas in paragraphs.


* Ideas are logical and flowing.

* Transition words are used well.

* Order of ideas is confusing.

* Parts of the writing flow well, others don’t.

* Could use transition words better.

* Ideas are in no order and do not flow.

* No transition words used.


* The main point(s) is well supported.

* All details relate directly to the main point(s).

* Reasons for main points not presented clearly.

* Details not specific.

* It’s hard to follow the reasons for the main points.

* Details not related to the main points.

Want a Resource on How to Teach Early Writing?

Here is my eBook on Teaching Early Writing to ESL/EFL Learners.  that answers all the questions above. It is a practical guide to teaching writing in the primary stage. It gives teachers step-by-step instructions to teach basics of handwriting and tells them what to do exactly when teaching paragraph, letter and email writing. This guide enables teachers to have control of their teaching early writing to kindergarten and primary leaners.

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