To edit or not to edit? – That is the question

I have spent a lot of time recently viewing student blogs.  I also work with students who have their own KidBlog accounts.  They are really enjoying the comments and the connected feeling they get when they receive comments on their posts.  The interactivity is heart warming.  Children really do seem to like to read other children’s writing.

Obviously, our students are not all precision writers or word perfect scholars and there are often errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.  I have seen a few conversations between teachers on the question of editing student work. This is how I see the debate so far ..

Complete teacher edit before publish Child controlled edit before publish
For Against For Against
Children see that correct conventions must be followed for publishing Stifle enthusiasm Children are given ownership of the written material Teaching opportunity may be lost
Readers can easily take in content without having to decipher incorrect spelling and grammar Takes away children’s ownership of work Children learn from experience that poorly edited posts are not received as well Poor conventions are displayed to other readers
Correct conventions are displayed to readers Slows down process as requires adult intervention Displays ‘true’ image of child’s ability – more accurate portfolio Importance of conventions is diminished
Children are modeled proofreading and editing skills Children learn editing and proofreading skills

I am a fence sitter on this issue at the moment, I can see merit in both sides of this argument.  I admit to cringing when I see posts and comments that have so many errors they are difficult to understand.  I wince when the Shift Key is ignored and comments come in chat format.  I have iterated and re-iterated the importance of correct conventions with limited success.  I also admit to editing many posts and comments before approving them.

On the other side, I love the interaction I see and do not want to stifle that in any way.

What do you think????  I am sure there are other elements to consider.

11 thoughts on “To edit or not to edit? – That is the question

  1. I find this a really interesting question. As moderator of The Bloggers Cafe it comes up often. How much do I interfere with student comments? Are their teachers teaching conventions for commenting or is it a free for all? You have summarised the pros and cons well. It is similar when I think about how much editing I assist with in classroom work, but now my students have a much bigger audience. Does blogging mean they should be more careful and I should be more rigorous in checking? Am I worried that it reflects badly on me if my students’ work is poorly constructed? Blogging gives us a global audience. Does this increase the pressure on me as a teacher? What an interesting discussion.

  2. Hi Celia,

    I know this is a very controversial topic and I do love your table. It summarise the pros and cons very nicely.

    I wrote about this same issue on my blog last year and my view is that comments need to be edited.

    I think children definitely need to be involved in this process. There is no point a teacher editing a comment when a child isn’t around to learn about their errors for next time (just like when teachers correct writing in students’ books and the students aren’t involved).

    For me, I think the biggest issue is if students are making the same mistake over and over again then they are not learning anything, even perhaps embedding bad habits. I think I would be doing my grade two students a disservice if I wasn’t there to guide them with their literacy development.

    From personal experience, students are not discouraged to try again if a teacher has to work with them to improve their commenting. It is all about the manner in which this process is undertaken!

    I also let parents know that students need to get an adult to proofread comments left at home. Many parents have mentioned that they enjoy spending this time with their child and using the blog as a “window” into our classroom.

    This is my fourth year of blogging with young students and I have seen excellent results when I set a high standard for my students.

    In my classroom, blogging is part of our literacy block and I find it an excellent avenue to improve students’ literacy performance.

    Look forward to hearing others’ viewpoints!


  3. Thanks Pru and Kathleen,

    Embedding the proofreading process into the writing session is a great idea. Our junior school teachers use comments as an opportunity for shared reading and modelled writing which is wonderful. I wonder how this works when children are a little older and more independently blogging?

    What is your opinion about editing comments that come from students at other schools ? With a class of children (or in my case 4 classes) blogging and sometimes 30 comments to moderate, do we edit out all the errors? I don’t like the idea of children reading comments that are full of errors, but is it my place to ‘fix’ their mistakes too?

    More questions to ponder. Thanks for your thoughts. I will re-visit Kathleen’s post

  4. @ Celia,

    We get lots of comments from students all over the world on the 2KM and 2KJ blog

    I certainly wouldn’t think I need to edit or proofread these comments. In fact, errors often become teaching points during our shared reading sessions. I think it is good for my students to see a range of “errors” in order to reflect on and improve their own writing skills.

    Unless comments coming in from other classes are totally illegible, I will approve them.

    My points in my first comment are directed towards my students and classroom. I am responsible for teaching them to read and write and feel I need to set the standard high.

    As for older students, while you probably can’t be editing everything, I definitely think there needs to be a proofreading system in place. It is an important part of the writing process that students shouldn’t be permitted to ignore. Older students also need to be given strategies to proofread more independently as adults do – eg. dictionary, spell check, conference with a friend etc.

    Very interesting topic, I hope the discussion continues!

  5. I worry that I don’t have the opportunity to make a teaching point out of all the small mistakes, but leaving them, may, as you say ’embed’ bad habits.

    One of the simplest ‘issue’ is lack of capitalisation. In many cases it is not lack of understanding, it is a ‘style’ they are appealed to. Why are they afraid of the Shift key?

    Thanks again – at least WE are discussing

  6. This is a difficult choice. I teach first graders, who work to get thoughts and words organized to convey a message, find the letters on the BIG keyboard (with tiny hands) and all the while thinking about the spelling, grammar and punctuation? Well, it just seems like too much! I often go for message, letting much editing go! I “fix” spelling when I feel peers won’t be able to read the message.

    I remember a story from my daughter’s early kindergarten year, (she’s 17 now). She pulled a piece of writing from her book bag and says, “Mommy, you can throw this away.” I was puzzled and asked “Why?” she replied, “I didn’t do it right, see my teacher fixed it right here.” The writing prompt was “Does your family have a meeting place for a fire drill?” She had written, “My fmlys metng plas is the malbx” Not bad for an early kindergartener!

    Did this really need “fixed” if the message to the child is “I didn’t do it right?

  7. Thank you for this interesting conversation. You have prompted some thinking, that’s for sure, and a conversation I’ll take to school.
    My early response is that a lot depends on whether we have an authorial or a secretarial focus. I also believe it’s an important discussion in which to involve the children themselves. We have a great opportunity to ask them what level of editing they prefer and why.
    I like the idea that errors provide an authentic teaching point, whether the students are performing as readers or writers.
    Anyway, I haven’t offered any insights, but really appreciate the thinking prompt. I’ll take it to my staff and my students and report back any brilliant insights that may come up!

  8. I have read these posts with interest and can relate to all issues. I Think maybe it is about purpose so on some occasions it is opportunity for a specific teaching point and we should be editing and then other times we don’t edit so heavily as we font wish to stifle creativity as CElia said. I too am fence sitting as l don’t think there have to be hard and fast rules. Just real purpose!! I also agree about teachers having high expectations as a real issue and one that does and cam make a difference!! Thanks for the reference to previous posts around this issue, I will take time to read through!!

  9. WOW! This is blogging at it’s BEST! Such great conversation! Celia thanks for sharing the link- .
    I took some time to browse his page and found a few great ideas.
    My class enjoys KidBlog and VoiceThread to reach outside our classroom. I think they prefer VT because of the audio option. I need to show them how they can upload audio or video into a blog post. You can visit my blog to view a few ways we have used VT in our first grade classroom.

  10. Celia,
    I wish I would have joined this conversation earlier. Your blog post was right on the mark. I am a fence-sitter too. I teach older kids who are fairly independent bloggers. I have seen excellent use of conventions. One of my favorites was in this blog post: The girls were so motivated because they were reaching out to the world in a special way, not just a normal blog post.

    At the same time, I see atrocious, hurried work at times. I certainly have done my share of editing their comments and posts at times too. Or move them back into draft form until they spend more time polishing them.

    Thanks again for a great post,
    Denise Krebs

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