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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Edit

How do you edit a child's story, presentation or project?  How much time do you take?  What do you prioritize?  What's your process?

For me, editing is intense.  I sit down with a child, and he or she shows me their work.  I think a lot about that child and the piece before even starting.  I think about where that child is in the learning progression, what he/she has accomplished thus far, and the next steps for growth.

I usually start with a few questions:  Do you consider this project complete?  Were there any parts that you got stuck on?  What do you really like about your project?  Did you follow the check-list?  Then the child or I will slowly begin to read the presentation aloud. As we listen together to the words and view the images, the child or I will stop now and then to highlight grammatical errors, a research question, a format possibility or an area for growth. When we read, we'll think about our audience, the readers, and wonder:  Will they understand the piece?  Will they learn from the process?  How can we format for greater meaning and enjoyment? Are the facts correct and clearly presented? We'll correct errors and make revisions as we edit.  We'll also create an after-edit to-do list.

The edit usually lasts about 15-20 minutes.  That's a long time when you consider that the other 20plus children are working independently.  If you're lucky, some or all of the students will be under the guidance of an assistant or specialist teacher.  It's also challenging because the room is rarely quiet enough for full concentration, so you have to continue to remind the others to stay on task with whisper voices.  Solid training at the start of the year helps with that. Then there's the fact that most teachers have 20plus students, and 20 X 20 = 400 minutes or almost 7 hours of editing.

Coaches have visited my class and recommended that I cut those edits down to two or three minute meetings.  "Pick one strategy, and edit for that.  Then leave the other goals for a future piece," they've instructed.  Sometimes colleagues choose to edit the pieces at home without the one-to-one conference.  I've done that for some pieces too, but when the goals are high and the editing sensitive, I like the thoughtful, lengthy one-to-one meeting.

During my education, those one-to-one meetings with professors and teachers were invaluable.  I can count on one hand the number of those meetings I had from kindergarten to graduate school, yet when I had the chance to sit down with an educator to discuss and improve a craft, it was a memorable, productive and unforgettable experience.  Also, as a teacher, I look forward to those one-to-one editing meetings with every student.  I really get to know the student.  I also get to encourage the child, and help him or her move forward with specific skills, content and knowledge in their unique and personal learning ways.  Furthermore I'm able to model editing, spelling, research, writing and presentation skills  and strategies with the child by my side.

With a dozen or more endangered species presentations left to edit, and about 20 fiction Google presentation story books to review, I'm feeling the editing challenge in the last few weeks of school.  Yet, as I focus on the purpose and strength of one-to-one editing, I am excited about the learning these conferences offer my students.

Editing and one-to-one student conferences are a large part of the teaching process. It's a challenging, but enriching curriculum piece.  How do you fit edits into your day, year and program?  What kind of time do you give to this task?  What's your focus?  What do you deem to be the benefits?  How does this process change throughout the grades?  As we rethink schools, the one-to-one conference and/or edit, may become a regular, valuable part of every school program and schedule.  Ideally it will take place in a quiet, welcoming space without distractions.  I look forward to your thoughts and comments about editing and one-to-one conferences.  This might also be a great topic for Twitter #engchat, #elemchat, #edchat or #4thchat in the weeks to come.


Note:  The "Get Schooled" video shows President Obama editing a speech with Sarah Hurwitz, a Wayland High graduate and speechwriter.