Now, I don’t know about your students, but when I tell my kids to edit their writing, it takes them approximately 6.5 seconds until they’re “done.” After quickly catching on, I knew I had to come up with a strategy to make editing more purposeful.
One of my favorite ways to teach students to edit their writing pieces is through a collaborative activity that I like to call Musical Papers. In my classroom, I really value student collaboration and I make opportunities for the kids to work together whenever possible. This activity can be done with any writing piece, and it’s great for teaching students how to hone in on their editing skills. It’s also super fun!
Musical Papers is an editing game where students edit their classmates’ writing in an organized, focused, and structured way. Each student starts by putting their paper on their desk with one sticky note next to it (I’ll explain where the sticky note comes into play later). Or, if you’re using my Musical Papers PPT Slides, have the students put the Musical Papers accountability sheet next to their drafts. Make sure each student has a colored pencil to edit their classmates’ papers with. The more variation in colors, the better, because the color assigned to each student serves as an accountability piece. For example, if Johnny is using a blue colored pencil, we know exactly who wrote all the blue edits on Katie’s paper. This prevents students from writing silly notes or making inappropriate marks on someone else’s writing.
Once the kids are ready, they stand up, tuck in their chairs, and wait for the music. As soon as the tune begins, the students must travel (and dance, if it’s okay with the teacher) around the room until the music stops. When it stops, they sit down at the desk that is closest to them. I like to remind my students that they shouldn’t dart across the room at this moment just to edit their friend’s paper. 😉
Here’s where the sticky note comes into play. Right as students sit down at the closest desk, have them write their names on the sticky note using their colored pencil. This serves two functions; first, we can see everyone who edited each paper after the game is done, and then second, we can hold each editor accountable. If you use my Musical Papers PPT Slides, use the accountability sheet instead of a sticky note.
The next part is the key component in providing a structured editing session. Instead of having the students edit anything and everything, this is when I tell students EXACTLY what they are editing for in that round. For instance, during the first session, I will say, “Make sure there is a title that is capitalized. If there is, leave it alone. If there isn’t, write the word ‘title’ so your friend knows they need to make a correction.” That’s it! When they are done checking the title, they stand up behind the chair and wait for the music again. The next round, I might have them look for capital letters at the beginning of each sentence. The round after that, I’ll have them look for run-ons and periods. Indenting. Capitalized proper nouns. Commas. Whatever language conventions your students are capable of editing independently.
And that’s the gist of it! It’s collaborative, it’s structured, and it’s good practice. Be sure to check out my Musical Papers presentation that you can project and use to help guide the activity. It includes 10 pre-made rounds that are totally editable. The slides have an editing task or objective, instructions, and an example. Each slide also has a built in timer that starts counting down on your click. There are additional timers with different times (4 mins – 30 seconds) that you can choose from.