• Easy Editing-Awareness Technique for ESL Students

Cover edit ICE shot

This can drive a teacher crazy. You remind students to proof-read their paper before turning them in. However, after class, as you read them, you continually see basic grammar mistakes that you are sure they should have been able to have caught.

It’s quite common for ESL students to have a distorted view of their writing skills. They think that they can adequately edit their papers as they are writing, and thus, feel little need to re-read them before turning them in.  Little do they realize that a plethora of simple grammar and spelling mistakes on a paper can give the reader/teacher a lower opinion of the students’ skills.

I have found that the following little requirement has greatly transformed students into much more diligent self-editors.

After students have printed out their papers, they are required to make at least two corrections with a pencil or pen on the paper. Why this seems to be effective:

  • It forces students to re-read the paper version of their work. It can be a real challenge for any writer to carefully edit a paper on a screen, and mistakes that are easily overlooked on a screen tend to stand out on paper.
  • Once they have found one mistake that they had overlooked on the screen, they realize that they probably have more.
  • They begin to understand that, in most academic situations, it’s acceptable to have some small penciled-in edits. In fact, it can look impressive to the reader that the writer was serious enough to re-read their paper.

I’ve recommended to my students to NOT re-print their papers after making the pencil edits unless they have a large number of them since it would not only be a waste of paper but also they would be missing a chance to signal to the reader that the paper had been carefully edited.

Encouraging students to use this technique. While marking their papers, when I see a penciled in edit, I often will circle or underline them in green. (I tell students that green=good.) (See • ESL Students’ Positive Responses to this Teacher Technique)

 For more about marking papers, see …

.• When Marking Only Half of a Student’s Essay Makes the Most Sense.

Myth: Students Don’t Like to See Red Marks on Their Papers

Most Effective Technique for Marking Grammar on Essays to Develop Self-Editing Skills

How to lead ESL Students to Discover their Grammar Mistakes on Writing Assignments)

David Kehe

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