Help Kids Write Better Papers: Edit with Care
Every once in a while, my kids will ask me to take a look at a paper they're working on for a class. Sure! I'll say, as I eagerly pull out my editing pen and prepare to mark up the pages. But experience has taught me not to get too ambitious with their request. Unlike me, who prefers a thorough, detailed edit, kids are a little more sensitive.
For them, there’s a fine line between editing and overediting—and in fact the latter can do more harm than good. Too much red marking doesn’t just upset kids, it can confuse them, undermine their confidence, and turn them off to writing altogether.
So how can you help a child write a better paper, especially if it needs a lot of work? Should you—as their “editor”—let some mistakes go?
Actually, yes. It’s a good idea to point out errors that kids should know based on their education level. But think twice about those problems of style, grammar, and consistency that come with age and experience. Nit-picking might be okay for a high school senior but not for a ten-year-old. In either case, a paper doesn’t have to be technically perfect to be good.
Instead, concentrate on the bigger issues. Does the paper do what it’s supposed to do, like answer a question or present an argument? Is it organized, with an introduction, body, and conclusion? Are the style and format appropriate? Does the paper meet the length requirements? Be sure to point out the paper’s strengths, too. Knowing what they’re doing right can make all the difference to developing young writers.
Finally, stress the importance of revision. Even professionals rarely finish a piece without going over it multiple times and making changes. Revision is an essential step to good writing. And the earlier that truth is learned, the better.
(Image by Janos Feher)