Lesson of the Day: Proofreading and Editing

I like Nathaniel Hawthorne. I really do. But for some reason, I posted two Nathaniel Hawthorne short story study guides and gave credit to Edgar Allan Poe for writing them. Thanks to savvy readers, those errors were brought to my attention and corrections were made. Just in case you didn’t know who wrote “The Minister’s Black Veil” or “Young Goodman Brown,” it was Nathaniel Hawthorne. By the way, Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Harrison Bergeron.”

What did I learn from this? Be careful when you copy and paste standard openings. Proofread better. And this lesson of the day on proofreading and editing.

Common Core Standards

There aren’t many Common Core Standards on proofreading. I don’t care. It’s important. Here’s what I found.

  • NV 5.12.6 – Edit for correct sentence structure.
  • NV 5.12.4 – Edit for correct use of mechanics.
There’s some other stuff on using a semicolon and other things that you could incorporate into the assignment, if it suits your fancy.

On with the lesson

Option 1: My professor did this when I was in grad school. We all thought we were pretty smart until he projected at least one mistake he found in each essay he collected. We corrected each mistake as a class. We all felt stupid, much in the same way I felt stupid when I realized I assigned the wrong authorship to three short stories on this site. I deserve to feel stupid.  Our students deserve to feel stupid, too,sometimes. Try this lesson.
  1. Find one mistake in each essay/paragraph/writing assignment and list them.
  2. Project (anonymously) the mistakes.
  3. Instruct students to correct them or correct them as a class.
  4. Emphasize the importance of proofreading, editing, and revising.

Option 2: I point out others’ mistakes all the time. It’s my job. It makes me feel smart. Students will feel smart, too, pointing out others’ mistakes. Assign students to find at least five mistakes in publicly displayed writing. The Internet is the most notable offender. Posted signs in your school are another easy target. Store signs, billboards, and public notices are fun targets. Here’s the lesson.

  1. Discuss the importance of looking intelligent.
  2. Discuss how unintelligent individuals look when they make mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, obvious facts and whatever else you can think. You can offer the observation that this method of assessing goodness, intelligence, and character is unfair, but reality is what it is and when you say Edgar Allan Poe wrote “Young Goodman Brown,” people will consider you evil, dishonest, and stupid.
  3. Assign students to find 5-10 mistakes in published works or signs. If you wish, you can assign specific types of mistakes.  If you think apostrophe usage errors are my favorite, your right!
  4. Students share findings with the class and glory in their intelligence and how much better they are than those idiots who don’t know when to use “you’re” instead of “your.”
  5. Offer bonus points for finding mistakes on this site or other sites and posting a message on the message board.

Option 3: Do both options 1 and 2.

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