Teachers understand the value of active listening and active reading. In a writing class, there is also great value in active editing.
For example, some teachers tell students to read their paper out loud to themselves in a quiet room. The idea is that sometimes it easier to “hear” an error than to “see” an error.
However, active editing does not have to be done solo. The following activities offer a way to bring active editing into the classroom to help students hear, feel, and identify fragments and run-on sentences with the help of the teacher and a peer. The activities occur just before students turn in their second drafts.
Group Activity: Ears, Hands and Feet
- Prepare a paragraph that contains fragments, run-ons, and complete sentences. Choose a paragraph that is similar in theme to one students are about to edit. Six to eight sentences is a good length.
- Do not show students the paragraph yet, but get it ready just before class begins. Using Microsoft Word, open the document, but then delete each sentence (or fragment or run-on) one-by-one in Word until they all disappear. Start from the last sentence and work backwards.
- Explain to students that you will be reading a paragraph sentence-by-sentence and pausing at each period.
- Tell students that at each pause, they will:
a) Raise their right hand high if they think it is a complete sentence.
b) Raise their left hand, but only slightly, if they think it is a fragment.
c) Stomp their foot if they think it is a run-on.
- Have students close their eyes so that they can focus their ears on the sound and flow of each sentence.
- Read each sentence, giving adequate pause for each period and noting the students’ reactions. Do not show the sentences yet. Students are being trained in listening.
- Once the reading is done, project Word on the screen. Using “Control +Z” or the Redo button, reveal one sentence at a time, starting with the first. Each sentence should reappear separately so that the discussion stays focused.
- When the sentence appears, read it out loud again.
- Use the students’ feedback to review the elements of a complete sentence. Go over ways to edit fragments and run-ons, eliciting ideas from students.
Pair Activity: Ears and Paper
- Next, put students into pairs and ask them to get out their paragraphs. (Students who are working on essays can choose just one paragraph, such as the introduction or one of the body paragraphs.)
- Tell them they are now going to listen to each other’s sentences to identify fragments, run-ons and complete sentences. Ask them to count how many periods their paragraph has. Then, on a piece of paper, tell them to number accordingly.
- Have each pair sit down face-to-face and switch numbered papers. The speaker reads his paragraph, pausing after each period. At each pause, the listener writes C for complete sentence, F for fragment, and RO for run-on on the numbered paper.
- Once the reading is done, the listener gives the speaker feedback, and the speaker edits his paragraph for proper sentence structure and punctuation.
- Students then switch roles and repeat Steps #2-4.
- Give students time to edit their paragraphs one last time before turning them in. Circulate and assist as necessary.
This sequence of activities lasts about 30-40 minutes. Oftentimes, students will hear other errors, such as mistakes with verb forms and subject-verb agreement, and correct them as well. In the end, students walk away with a new editing strategy, and a reminder that writing and the process of writing are social activities.