One of the most helpful things middle school ELA and high school English teachers can do for their students during a writing unit is incorporate self-review into the lesson plan and activity.
By conducting effective self-review of their own writing, students will grow in their writing abilities and become stronger writers. Also, students will become more confident in their writing abilities.
Here are several ways to help prepare your students for the self-review process.
1. Start small
Writing is an enormous task, and we can’t expect students to be able to self-review, and I mean genuinely and effectively self-review, an entire multi-paragraph essay right away. Not only is it a daunting task, but students need to build up to that level. That is why I typically start with a three-sentence writing prompt toward the beginning of the year. Once students have a good feel for the three-sentence writing strategy, they can then use class examples to review their writing responses.
2. Use mentor texts
When students have strong mentor texts to use as examples, their writing also improves. An excellent way for students to gauge their own writing is to place it side-by-side by a mentor text. Then, sentence-by-sentence, students can go through their writing and evaluate each sentence for clarity and purpose.
3. Focus on short, manageable tasks
When conducting a self-review activity in the classroom, only have students review their writing for just a few key components. For example, have students check their thesis, topic sentences, and quotes. By focusing on just a few items at a time, students will put more effort into checking just those items. Again, it is more manageable and less daunting.
4. Provide students with a checklist
Never ever under any circumstance send students into a self-review activity without any guidance. That is just a recipe for chaos, confusion, and classroom disruption. Whenever I have my students complete self-review, I provide them with some sort of checklist. My free essay writing checklist is a great place to start. Print out this checklist for each student and have them turn it in as part of their final essay assignment.
Another way you can provide a checklist to students is by printing out a checklist on sticky notes (always a student favorite) or by printing out a checklist on a quarter piece of paper.