Lesson Plan: Improve Writing by Learning How to Edit an Essay
I felt good about life. I taught students how to organize, focus, establish style, and use grammar. I felt so good, I nominated myself for teacher of the year, made fliers, and posted them throughout town. Then I realized my students did not understand the difference between proofreading and editing. I had to act immediately. I canvassed the school, took down all the fliers, rescinded my nomination, and called my wife to tell her I'd be home late.
I had work to do. I had to teach students how to edit an essay.
Proofreading and Editing Explained
Students don't understand what proofreading and editing is. They falsely believe editing involves correcting misspelled words and poor punctuation. That's called proofreading. Editing involves, eliminating words, restructuring sentences, rearranging material, and clarifying ideas. Once an essay is edited and proofread, it is ready for revision.
English teachers have done a fine job explaining proofreading symbols. These techniques will teach students how to edit an essay for economy.
1. Eliminate unnecessary prepositional phrases:
Example: Sharks of a predatory nature
Edited: Predatory sharks
2. Eliminate redundant modifiers:
Example: impoverished homeless
3. Eliminate adjectives that describe the obvious:
Example: meaningful memories, loud screams
Edited: memories, screams
4. Get rid of the unnecessary that, which, or who:
Example: I know that retirement is important.
Edited: I know retirement is important.
5. Cross out the unnecessary articles:
Example: Be sure to tell the students not to chew gum.
Edited: Be sure to tell students not to chew gum.
1. Assign a 1,000 word essay. Emphasize it must be at least 1,000 words. It must be done on a word processor.
2. A week after collecting it (this will give time for absent students to get it done), tell them to edit their 1,000 word essay to 600 words.
3. Begin by looking at sections or paragraphs they could eliminate or combine.
4. Continue by looking at sentences and clauses they could eliminate or combine.
5. Finally, instruct them to use the techniques above.
6. Assessment should include not only the quality of writing, but the ability to deliver the same main idea in 600 words that they previously delivered in 1,000 words.
7. For practice on editing for word economy, use the paragraph below.
Are you looking for something to do in Telluride. I'll tell you what. There's a lot to do. Let's start with dog-sledding, dog. Remember that time when you whacked your one neighbor's poodle across the forehead for taking a dump in your freshly mowed lawn? I certainly wouldn't recommend doing that to a really big furry Alaskan Husky, especially when he and nine of his big, furry buddies are flying through the rocky Colorado wilderness, full of trees and animals, attached to a snow sled carrying you and your family. Half day sleigh rides for 4-6 passengers provide the most fun that you can have with 10 hairy dogs, a wife, and three kids. It's a lot of fun, for sure.
* Click the title for edited version