10 Questions for Jeff: Displaying student writing with errors

December 17th, 2012

Question 6: What are your thoughts on displaying students’ writing  that include convention errors?

Jeff’s response: This is a hot question that tends to be a bit controversial. I think it depends on a few the things: the level of the students, the types or frequency of error, the length of writing, and the audience for which it is displayed. If I am displaying K-2 writing, there are certain things like writing in all caps, or using only initial letters that I would not display. In fifth grade, when students have written a two- page narrative, I may not be concerned if the dialogue isn’t punctuated perfectly iff there was improvement or movement toward correctness throughout the process.

The error-free essay can be a bit of an overreach. I think it is a worthy goal to move toward, but I am not sure of the value of NOT sharing work that is in process or imperfect. I see plenty of conventionally correct writing displayed work that is vapid and shallow, but we wouldn’t worry about that as much—depending on the child, the grade level, the length, and who is seeing this. If an essay is going in a district magazine or a class book, then I think every attempt should be made to make it as correct as possible. However, we have to balance the cost of an error-free draft. What damage does it take to get there? We have to be aware of such things as writing teachers.

Some worry that the Common Core Standards state that “by the end of Grade 4, students will use correct capitalization and use references for spelling checks.” They may. And I think this should happen. But there will still be errors. I think the important thing is that we are moving toward correctness, not always achieving perfection. When perfection is required, much is lost in any endeavor—especially as young writers learn to write.


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Entry Filed under: Writing

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Anne Rochford  |  December 19th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I agree this is controversial. I read an idea I realy liked which was to have one of your display boards dedicated to ‘works in progress’. There was a shared understanding that these pieces of writing were not polished. Each piece could have a caption to explain the particular reason for sharing such as word choice, paragraphing, building of suspense or just ‘Look at what Mia is working on’
    I am returning to the classroom in 2012 after 2 years as a coach and this is one idea In plan to try.

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