The Writing Teacher: Editing Strategies


Editing can be a challenge for teachers.  Who is best to do the editing?  Laure was very clear to me, the students.  But the process needs to be guided by the teacher. I asked Laura to share some thoughts and strategies on how to effectively engage students in editing.

Teachers tend to edit for writing conventions by correcting students’ writing because that’s what their teachers did to their work. Two things happen if we continue this editing practice:

  1. Teachers, not students, become better at editing for writing conventions.
  2. Students don’t learn from their editing errors. Instead, they recopy the teacher’s edits and make minimal progress


How to Change This Picture

Help students understand that they need to edit their writing by narrowing the scope of what they do.  First, negotiate with students the writing conventions to include in a rubric—these are the conventions you will teach and review. Then, have students use the rubric to edit for one convention at a time. This means that students will have to read through their writing to check for each convention because students have more success when editing for one convention at a time.


Fifth Grade Example

The rubric that fifth-grade students used to edit their book reviews included these writing conventions:

  • Paragraphing
  • Complete sentences.
  • Commas in a series
  • Underline title of the book

Students self-edited only for the four conventions listed and then had their writing partners edit book reviews.  Using feedback from self and peer editing, students composed a second draft that also included content revisions.

If students made other writing convention errors, the teacher noted these as she read students’ second drafts: Commas between compound sentences; active verbs; commas at end of introductory subordinate phrases.  You can think aloud and show students how you edit following a rubric. Then, create a list of what you did to help students as they edit their work.


Tips That Support Students

  • Have students read their piece out loud to listen for and test conventions listed in their rubric.
  • Think aloud and model how asking questions helps with the editing process. Create an anchor chart with questions like those that follow:


Some Writing Conventions Questions

  • Did I paragraph when I changed time, place, and topic?
  • Did I paragraph dialogue correctly?
  • Did I test sentences that go on for 3 or more lines to see if they are run-ons?
  • Did I rewrite run-ons so I have clear sentences?’
  • Did I start a few to several sentences the same way?
  • Did I rewrite to vary sentence openings?
  • Can I combine two short sentences?
  • Are there missing commas, quotation marks, or end-of-sentence punctuation?
  • Have I circled words I think I’ve misspelled?
  • Have I asked my writing partner to check my edits?


Closing Thoughts

Editing for conventions takes time. Sure, it’s easier for the teacher to do the work, but remember, we teach for independence. To help students achieve independence, they need to do the editing. It’s easy to slide back to how we learned and what we are used to doing. Feel tempted to do the editing? Sit on your hands and read, making mental notes of possible mini-lessons and places students need to revisit.  Jot feedback for students on a sticky note, and list ideas for future mini-lessons on writing conventions. It will take more time, but it’s the students who will progress by practicing a complex process.


To learn much more about teaching editing, check out these resources by Laura Robb: Teaching Middle School Writers (Heinemann, 2010) and SMART WRITING (Heinemann, 2012).


Leadership: Class Walkthroughs

Walkthroughs can be an effective way to observe instruction and to provide feedback to staff. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on what needs to be in place to launch an effective walk through program and seven mistakes to be aware of.


Relationships Matter

Walkthroughs work best when there is a good professional relationship between administrators and teachers. So, let’s assume that you have positive relationships with your teachers and other administrators.  What are some key elements that make for great walk through experiences for all staff?  


Collaborate With Staff

Administrators should work with staff to create key focus areas for walkthrough observations because focus areas bring clarity to walk through visits for administration and teachers. I am a proponent of establishing focus areas with faculty VS telling staff this is what we will do.  To start the process of creating focus areas staff can look at data from the previous year, read articles and books on best practice in education to find focus points for the year ahead.  The key is to not create too many; I suggest three to six focus points for the year.  These focus points will be the topics of meetings, book study, article study, peer discussion, and class walk through.


Some Focus Areas

  • As an example here are four focus areas my staff worked on:
  • Engagement vs Compliance
  • Learning Targets
  • Higher Level Oral Questioning
  • Effective Exit Passes

When I do walkthroughs staff know I will be focusing on the look for’s that we established as a learning community.  I no longer have a veil of mystery of why I am in a class or what I am looking for.  



My goal is to improve teaching and learning. Walkthroughs allow me to provide same day feedback to staff. This can be either a brief conversation or email to discuss what went well, what might be changed, who the lesson worked for, and who it did not.  


Positives & Pitfalls

Walk through observations done with clarity of purpose and all understanding why they are done have the potential to build trust and create opportunities for feedback, conversation, and growth.  They can improve teaching and learning.  But done wrong, walkthroughs can also hurt efforts to improve teaching and learning. What follows are seven ways to ruin your walkthroughs efforts.


Derailing Walkthroughs

  • Avoiding building trust between teachers and administrators; a guarantee that walkthroughs will not work.
  • Completing walkthroughs when staff has no clue why the administration is doing them results in developing a divisive, gotcha school culture.
  • Never letting staff know when walkthrough observations will occur.
  • Inviting others to do walkthroughs who no one on your staff knows.
  • Giving no feedback to teachers after completing walkthroughs.
  • Making a walkthrough visit evaluative.
  • Huddling in the corner with other administrators outside a class where you just did a walk through and looking very serious or angry.


Find Success

Good planning, communication, professionalism and a commitment to building trust while improving are critical to launching effective classroom walkthrough observations.  Invest time in doing them right and you have an additional strategy to improve instruction and learning. Do them wrong, and you will hurt your leadership and put a wedge between you and staff.

Make the right choice!

The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

The Writing Teacher – Revision Strategies

Revision is hard to teach.  I asked Laura to share some tips on how to teach great revision strategies.

“I don’t know what to revise or how to revise.”  Too many students feel this way when teachers ask them to revise their writing for content and word choice.  It is important for students to revise their own work and then have a peer writing partner offer revision suggestions. The big question is, How can teachers help students revise their work?

What follows are seven tips that move revision out of your hands and into your students’ hands.

Tip 1. Have students use the rubric or content criteria you negotiated and their writing plans to check their first drafts.

Tip 2. Model this checking process using the first draft of a student no longer at your school. Think out loud to show students how you compare the rubric and writing plan to the first draft. Then, make a list of areas that require revision. For example:

Shorten the title

Need to add dialogue and punctuate

Make nouns like things and stuff specific

Sentence openings in 2 paragraphs all the same–need to vary them.

Tip 3. Have students make a list of what they need to revise.

Tip 4.  Model revision strategies.

To revise one or a few sentences or add sentences place a number next to the sentence that needs elaborating. On separate paper, have the student write the same number and complete the revision.

To generate specific nouns have students write in the margin a list of 2 to 3 possibilities, reread the sentence inserting each new and select the choice that works.

To vary sentence openings, students can combine two related sentences, open some sentences with a prepositional phrase or open with one of these words (called subordinating conjunctions): when, since, until, because, if, as soon as, although, unless, whenever.

Tip 5. Have the student invite his/her writing partner to make revision suggestions. Partners use a plan, rubric or criteria, and the first draft to create a feedback list.

Tip 6. Invite students to review all feedback, decide what they’ll include in their revisions, then write their revisions following suggestions in Tip 4.

Tip: 7: Ask students to compose a second draft that includes their revisions.


Now, teachers read improved second drafts and students learn how to use their plans and the rubric or criteria to figure out what to revise.  Of course, there will be errors not addressed in the rubric or criteria. Make a list of errors as you read second drafts. These become topics for future mini-lessons and student conferences.

Feedback on Second Drafts

Use students’ revision lists and rewrites to offer feedback. Look at the process from finding topics, brainstorming, negotiating a rubric or criteria, writing plan, first draft, revisions, and second draft. On a sticky-note, list a few things the student improved and/or did well using the rubric/criteria as your guide for responding. Then, take a few minutes to reflect on priorities–what you’d like the student to ponder and improve. Choose one or two needs and put these in the form of questions. Questions should be kind and encourage students to reflect. If necessary, let students have another shot at revising using your questions.

The point is to offer students a strategy, opportunity, and choice for improving their writing. When students feel confident doing the work of revision, you are teaching for independence!

Follow Laura @LRobbPrincipal

Check out this great book! Read Talk Write

Technology to Make a Difference

Enjoy this guest post by Patrick Hausammann, I.T.R.T. Follow Patrick @PHausTech


As an education professional and a technology integration specialist, there is often a myth or misconception that presents itself.  This myth is that a technology project is the same thing as technology integration.  Often a project will be worked into a lesson or unit because there is extra time left or lack of snow days has yielded more instructional days than planned on.

These projects can be fantastic uses of technology and allow the students to pursue avenues they haven’t before.  However, the students know when they do the project that it is a fleeting experience.  In many cases, when the project ends traditional teaching resumes without technology.  This is not to say that great teaching can’t occur without technology, however, the reach and innovative options for students research, audience, sharing/collaboration, and creativity are limited.  The graphic below denotes a possible definition of effective technology integration, note the differences…

Without technology freely available in the classroom, either through school provided devices or bring your own device programs, students do not have the ability to tap into the instant stream of worldwide information and experts the internet provides.  They also lack the avenues to pull the information together, collaborate with others outside of their classroom, and present the information in a visually stunning manner, such as with G Suite tools like Google Docs and Google Slides.  We must break away from teaching methods that use technology as a reward or a once-in-a-while event.

Another graphic further delineates the differences between technology use and technology integration from TeachThought.

So, please take some time to truly think about how technology is used in your classroom or by your teachers.  Is technology truly being used to make a difference?  Is it an integral part of the classroom such as paper and pencils?  Or is used when there is extra time left in class?  Is a calculator the only technology used in math class?  Is technology talked about as if it is on a pedestal or as if it is as prevalent as the air?

Never in any pursuit in education today, especially technology integration, should you feel this challenge is yours to take on by yourself.  If not supported through technology integration specialists in your building or your administration team, seek the world’s input and support via social media, blogs, websites, etc.  I stand willing to assist you among thousands (if not millions) of others; all you need to do is ask.  My website with all links (blog, social media, etc.) and conference presentations can be found at  I truly believe that great pedagogy put together with innovative technology equals #EndlessPromise for our students.  Let’s use our growth mindsets to unleash the innovative creativity in all of our students!


Further Resources: