Revising and Editing with Young English Learners

Here are some quotes from teachers when asked about revising and editing in their elementary classroom:
“Students can’t do it.”
“We don’t even bother.”
“I call in a sub for those days.”
“It must be five o’clock somewhere…”
FACT: Getting students to revise and edit is hard, and teachers typically don’t like to do it.
But it’s important for students to learn how to revise and edit early because this practice helps them improve as writers.
So how can we teachers get students thinking about revising and editing?
All we need are ARMS and CUPS with MINTS.

Revising with ARMS

Let’s start off with revising.
When students revise, we want them to focus on the content.
ARMS is an acronym to get them thinking about how to enhance their writing.

A- Add Sentences or Words

R- Remove Sentences or Words

M- Move Sentences or Words

S- Substitute Sentences or Words (For repetitive words).

Add is generally for adding more detail to the writing. Remove is for things that do not belong. Move is for sentences that are out of sequence but are still needed, and substitute is for when a word is used too much or for sentences you want to rewrite, perhaps to make them more vivid (Show, Don’t Tell).

Editing Using Cups with Mints

Now for editing.
Editing is cleaning up your writing for the final draft.
Just as with revising, there is an acronym to get students thinking about what they need to look for- CUPS.

C- Capitalization (MINTS)

U- Usage (Nouns & Verbs)

P- Punctuation

S- Spelling

Each of these is self-explanatory on their own, but I would like to share an additional acronym to help students remember what to capitalize. MINTS is an easy way for young students to remember the many rules of capitalization.

M- Months

I- The pronoun”I”

N- Names

T- Titles

S- Starts of Sentences

Together, ARMS and MINTS provide a good editing checklist for young learners.

Teaching Revising and Editing

While acronyms are helpful, these acronyms will need to be taught and practiced regularly throughout a school year, and even better, throughout a students’ academic career.
How do we teach them? Here are my suggestions:
Work with students to revise/edit a class paper. Be sure the class paper has a place to demonstrate each type of revising/editing. Elicit ideas from students and guide as necessary.
Have students read their paper one time from top to bottom. PRO TIP: Reading aloud is the most effective for revising. I recommend having students whisper the words out loud while covering their ears. Covering their ears will make the whisper louder for them so they can hear their writing.
Have students make their revisions/edits. I would recommend giving the students a minimum like 3 revisions from two categories. You can always find 3 words to add or change. This will ensure students actually do some revising. As for editing, it is a bit harder to assign a number, but having students fill out a checklist or underline/circle items as verification may be helpful.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Revising and editing are separate processes. It is not recommended to do these at the same time. It’s best if you revise the class paper first, then have students revise theirs. Then, return to the class paper for editing, and again have students return to their papers for editing. For young learners, you may even want to separate these processes into different class periods.


To revisit the opening quotes…
Students CAN revise and edit. With ARMS and CUPS with MINTS, students will have the tools to revise and edit as long as they receive a lot of instruction and practice.
You should bother with revising and editing. Yes, it can be a long and hard process, but getting students thinking about revising and editing early will pay dividends down the road.
Save your sub for another day. You won’t want to miss seeing your students improving their writing.
While it may be 5 o’clock somewhere, you now know revising and editing does not have to be so stressful. Cheers!

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