Saturday

Stop Teaching Revising and Editing Like That; Try it Like This!

Do you teach revising and editing by having students mark up or correct grammar mistakes?  I mean, that's how I was taught to edit my writing.  And yet, no one taught me to tie my shoes or ride a bike by giving me 10 wrong examples.  So if you've never heard of Mentor Sentences for teaching grammar and revision, let me introduce you! 

How do Mentor Sentences Help Revising and Editing?

The way I see it, Mentor Sentences work because we are: Revising and Editing Sample Page
  • Teaching students to improve their writing by reading and analyzing model sentences
  • Naming the grammar concept we are learning to recognize and use
  • Taking time to craft our own sentences based on those models

All my Mentor Sentence pages incorporate these 3 elements. You can download a free sample here.  There are 2 model sentences with space for students to tell what they notice.  There is a small box with hints about the concept they are learning, along with a set of "note cards" that I chop up and distribute for students to glue into their Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics notebooks.  These note cards have a more thorough definition as well as more isolated examples.  And finally, each page has space for students to write their own sentence that incorporates the grammar concept we are studying. 


How Do I Use Mentor Sentences for Grammar Instruction?

I get asked a lot about what a revising and editing lesson plan looks like, so I thought I'd do a loose walk through. And I say loose because the way I use these Mentor Sentences varies according to the concept as well as students' prior knowledge.  If I'm moving from adverbs last time to coordinating conjunctions today, I will have a wider range of activities.  On the other hand, if I covered dialogue with tags preceding the spoken word yesterday, and today I want students to correctly punctuate dialogue with the tags after the spoken words, then quick grammar lessons on subsequent concepts are all they need.  So generally speaking, here's how I suggest you plan your weekly routine:

1. Introduce with models.  I present one page each week, such as the conjunctions, as an introduction to the concept. The grammar concept is taught in a sentences so students can see how the concept works in context.  They analyze the sentence for things that they already understand.  For example, they might notice it starts with a capital letter, or it ends with a period.  Hopefully they will recognize the subject and/or the verb that they learned in third grade.
 
Students also glue one of the note cards into their Editor's Notebook for future reference.  This will help them use academic language later on as they analyze future sentences.  As I said, at first you may hear a lot of students notice the capital and period, but as the year progresses, hopefully as they are learning about verb tenses they will recognize other grammar concepts they've learned this year, such as, "This sentence also has a compound subject."  Recognition is important before students can start using revising strategies independently.
 
2.  Try it out and share.  After you've taught the concept and students have seen the model, they write their own sentence.  For students who need a sentence frame, you can accept a sentence that is similar to the model but with a different subject or verb.  For students who want to push themselves, they might choose one of the examples from the note card that they haven't seen in context and they want to try out.
 
It is important to make time for students to share their writing.  Whether this is done in a one on one conference with you/a partner, in a small group, or whole class depends on what makes sense for you.  I have found that having 3 kids share with the whole class each day is a nice wrap up for our lessons.  I confer with a few students who need/prefer it.   
 
3. Practice.  If students appear to need more practice, I use task cards, songs, games, sorting activities, workbook pages, and so on as part of the Writer's Workshop block.  Of course, you can switch this step with the "try it out" step.  You can also spiral this step in revising and editing centers during your writing block (I highly recommend this).

4. Use proper revising and editing for grammar in context.  Near the end of a unit of study in Writer's Workshop, I review the relevant concepts from Mentor Sentences that I expect students to look for when editing. In the drafting stage of the writing process, we learn about the types of writing (what makes a good narrative, persuasive piece, and informational article).  During the revision stage, the real test of revising and editing ability is having kids edit their own work. Students have their Editor's Notebook with note cards to refer back to.

5. Summative assessment.  For a our standardized assessment, my district uses Journeys, which includes weekly tests in grammar. 

Do You Need More Revising and Editing Support?

I get it.  Grammar is just not fun for everyone.  I like it because it I feel like it's logical, like math, but also creative, because we use language to talk about, well, whatever we want!  So whether you are frustrated with all the language standards or just one specific objective, I can help.  I currently I have Mentor Sentences bundles as well as isolated grammar concepts for grades 3, 4 and 5.  You can browse them all here
 
 
 
 
 
 
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