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Question About Helping 4th Grader Edit His Composition


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I am currently working through IEW's All Things Fun & Fascinating with my fourth grade son, and I am stumped on how to help him correct his work.  His composition is filled with spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.  Although we have studied these things in grammar, he still continues to make mistakes.  After he hands in his first draft, should I correct all of these things for him?  I am not sure how much guidance to give him and how much to let him figure things out on his own.  I feel as if my uncertainty with respect to this issue is bringing the revision stage to a grinding halt.  :-/

ETA - I am beginning to think that dyslexia may be part of my son's problem, and we are in the beginning stages of setting him for an evaluation.  In the meantime, I would love some input on how to proceed.

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I don't use IEW, so I can't speak to that specifically. But what we do for editing composition is:

1. Make a copy of the original work and I have dd go through it to see if she can find the errors on her own.

2. I then make a copy of that and go through it with her to find any errors she may have missed. (Not always. sometimes we just use the copy she already edited)

3. Have her rewrite the composition (if it's shorter in length) using the edited version OR I have her go back and fix the errors in the original if it's a longer piece.


I should also mention that I let dd type most of her composition as she's able to produce more lengthy, thorough work without getting burnt out this way.


Sorry for any errors -- typing on my phone

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You can go through it sentence by sentence.   You both have a copy.  You have him read it out loud to you first and see if he hears any mistakes.  Sometimes, that clears up a lot of errors.  Then you have him read one sentence (or run on or fragment etc) at a time and say "I see a spelling error in that one. Do you see it?"  And give him a chance.  If he doesn't see it, then tell him and have him mark it on his hard copy.  Then you say, "I see a grammatical error in that same sentence. Can you find it?" And even give him hints.  If he can't find it, then tell him. Don't torture him. But have him make note of on his own copy.


When he is done, you can have him rewrite it, or a part of it. My kids tend to be pretty fragile about such things and it's not worth the hassle of a rewrite.


You might also want to consider having him work through the book "Editor in chief".  I found that learning grammar and spotting errors are two different things.  By having my kids work through those books they developed a keener eye. Not perfect, mind you, keener.  And we only did it once a week.  It was also handy because I live in a state that requires testing. It's pretty common for standardized tests to include things like reading a sentence with a grammar error and spotting it.  So, 'Editor in chief' is also practice for that.

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I had my kids go through on a separate day and find as many errors as they could. Praise for any he finds. Then praise if he knows how to fix them. For the rest, absolutely help him. Andrew Pudewa always says to help as much as they need (help until they push you away). I would ONLY do this on papers that you want him to revise and polish. Have some papers that you just praise his ideas or things he did well, that he doesn't have to polish. Let him find errors if you like, but don't red-pen everything after that. Correcting every last thing can be overwhelming and make lots of kids hate writing. When you do find errors (either ones you correct or ones you are not correcting), you can make those into grammar or spelling lessons the next day. Make a note of it and teach that concept without even referring to the paper--just let him practice and work with it. I used to do French Dictation to work on punctuation errors--take a passage that has the type of mark you want to work on (such as quote marks or comma usage) and type it up without punctuation, and see if he can punctuate it (pre-teach the concept, then let him try the exercise--try to set him up for success). 


A lot of kids aren't ready to put all the skills needed for writing together until junior high. Writing requires one to think about many things at one time: grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, syntax, organization, plus generating ideas etc... That's hard for adults, much less kids who are basically baby writers. Expect lots of bad writing, but look for many things to encourage. 

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We don't use IEW, but for my fourth grader writing a composition looks like this:


Day 1: She takes notes and makes an outline. (This might be two days if it is a lot of information.)


Day 2: She handwrites her composition.


Day 3: She types her composition. She fixes several of her mistakes on her own at this step, relying heavily on spell check.


Days 4-5: She revises and edits her composition with me. I point out her mistakes, explain the rule, and she fixes them.

If the same error occurs several times, I point out the first one and have her find the rest.


Revising is on a different day from the initial draft, and all revisions are done electronically.

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