This resource explores strategies for teaching students how to revise and edit content area writing.

This resource contains original content from the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies: Focus on Writing (TALA Writing) professional development and specific instructional practices for teaching revision and editing skills in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Any handout numbers refer to the original TALA Writing handouts.

Download and print the handouts for this resource by clicking the button below.

Download Now

To teach writing that supports student learning in the content area classroom, teachers must emphasize both content knowledge and the quality of students' writing.

Teachers must show students "how working historians, social scientists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers, or literary critics operate as authors . . . that they approach writing as a process, as a craft-like series of steps and stages that leads from gathering and organizing material and ideas, through drafting and revision, through editing and proofreading, to an ultimate rendezvous with readers" (Daniels, Zemelman, & Steineke, 2007, p. 118).

Revising and Editing Guidelines

Students can improve the quality of their content area writing by revising and editing.

Revising is the process of working with the organization and development of ideas (content) to strengthen and improve the overall clarity and coherence of a piece of writing.

"Because revision is about refining one's thinking, it has a role to play in any disciplinary learning. . . . revision may include both highly formal and elaborate approaches to making changes . . . or it can involve much less formal discussions of the ideas that were included . . . without actual rewriting" (Shanahan, 2004, p. 68).

Editing, which typically occurs after the content has been revised, is the process of identifying and correcting errors in capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

"Students should leave your room not only commanding age-appropriate proofreading and editing skills, but believing that the proofreading stage is an integral part of writing that cannot be skipped—just as a microbiologist would never submit a proposal to Science without going through the peer-review and proofreading process" (Teach for America, 2011, p. 89).

Both revising and editing should be a routine part of instruction in every content area classroom.

Please locate the General Guidelines for Revising and Editing Essays handout.

Take a few minutes to read the handout.

Next, think about the questions below and jot down your thoughts in your teaching journal.

  • How would you explain the differences between revising and editing?
  • Which writing conventions are the most problematic for your students? How do you address these areas?

Peer Conferencing

Peer conferencing, also known as peer review or peer response, is the process of students reading and responding to the writing of their classmates. The primary goal is for students to work collaboratively to improve their writing.

Peer conferences can be used at any stage of writing but are most commonly associated with revising and editing, as these processes benefit from systematic feedback from others, including peers. When students confer, their writing becomes more “reader based” because they take into consideration the needs of the reader as they review and respond to one another’s writing.

For students to effectively confer and work together to improve their writing, teachers need to provide explicit instruction in peer conferencing procedures and reviewer etiquette. This does not just involve placing students into groups and telling them to read and respond to one another's writing. Instead, teachers model and explain how the peer conferencing process works and how to respond appropriately (provide constructive feedback). Then, teachers provide ongoing monitoring and coaching as students begin to work with their peers.

Locate and read the General Guidelines for Teaching Peer Conferencing handout.

The basic response or feedback protocol on page 2 of the handout helps students share meaningful feedback during peer conferences. To be able to provide these three types of feedback, students have to first carefully read and review their peers' writing—noticing strengths and areas in need of improvement.

When you are ready, click play on the video below.

Locate Handout 29: Peer Conferencing Tool for Expository Essays and Handout 17: The Whole Family Under One Roof?

Select and carefully read one of the expository essays on Handout 17. Then, complete the peer conferencing tool on Handout 29 for that essay.

When you finish, return to the General Guidelines for Teaching Peer Conferencing handout and review the sample basic response or feedback protocol—praise, question, and polish—on page 2.

Then, use your peer conferencing tool to locate one part of the essay to address for each of the three steps in the strategy. Label each part: Praise, Question, and Polish.

Next, write a single sentence stem in the margin. This will model for students how to give each type of feedback.

We also have provided two other peer conferencing tools for you to use with your students, Handout 41: Peer Conferencing Tool for Personal Narratives and the Peer Conferencing Tool for Persuasive Writing handout. Locate and review those now.

Using a set of critiquing guidelines like the peer conferencing tools as students read and review writing scaffolds the process and helps students focus on specific aspects as they prepare for a peer conference.