Also known simply as “check your work before you hand it in!”
As English teachers, we lament and resent the relentless repetition of highlighting basic literacy errors in our students’ written work. Yet, we never seem to be able to eradicate this accuracy deficiency. All too common is because of the amount of work we cover in our curriculum, compounded by the need to mark several pieces of work produced as a result. It is hardly surprising that under such time pressure, inadequate attention was spent on some “natural” part of the the writing process, checking, proofreading, redrafting, checking again, until the piece is free from glaring errors. Unsurprisingly, such rush to produce written work has encouraged some sloppy attitudes towards work in our students as a consequence. “The teacher will do it”.
It is time we made time. Bring back responsibility, pay attention to details and start crafting.
And the way to do it is through checking basic literacy errors, proofreading, drafting and redrafting. Highlighters and pens of various colours may be useful, too.
This is how I have been doing since last year after some calculation of estimated time required to mark all classes as a teacher with a full teaching load across all Key Stages (3 – 5).
My basic principle is simple. I direct my students to check their extended writing tasks in English by means of a literacy checklist after their initial drafts. Instead of collecting their books in to mark straightaway, then we move on to complete another piece of writing, I slow down the process and reduce the number of tasks. I spend the next lesson or two, including homework time, to guide them through the process of checking, proofreading and redrafting.
The result has been pleasing. In this way, I am able to give more feedback on developing reading and writing skills, plus addressing some stylistic issues relevant to the individuals or the group. Less time is spent on correcting basic errors.
I use these lists and I customise to suit the nature of the writing tasks.
My drafting and redrafting process:
Start with basic literacy skills required in almost all types of texts.
1. Capital letters at the start of each sentence (green, or whatever colour, pen in hand)
2. Capital letters for proper nouns (people’s names, place names, days of week, month of the year and the Bible, etc.)
3. Full stops at the end of each sentence (unless it ends with a question, exclamation or ellipsis)
4. Possessive apostrophe
5. Common homophones: there/their, our/are, were/where/we’re, etc.
Then depending on the task, customise by using key skills in Assessment Objectives, scaling up to the top band.
Check PEEAL – or PEDAL or whatever acronyms that are used – first (first draft) before using the checklist, then check….
6. Quotation marks
7. Hinge words/connectives/discourse markers
Writing (select features relevant to types and purposes of the texts:
6. Adjectives (use Dictionary app or online thesaurus to replace “nice” and “bad”
14. Tones (humour, sarcasm)
15. Adverb sentence starter
16. -ing starter
17. Double adjective starter
18. One-word or a short sentence paragraph
19. Imaginative paragraphing
20. Full range of punctuation
23. Technical language
24. Expert endorsement
25. Passive voice