Helping Students Learn How to Fix Their Own Errors
As students rely more and more on the features built into word processing programs now, they look less closely for editing and proofreading errors. Sadly, many students see the elements flagged by their word processing programs and don't recognize the problem, so they ignore the flag. You can help students become better at final preparation of their papers just by pointing out that those flags are worth attending to.
Even more important, students often don't spend time editing and proofreading because they don't understand where these processes fit into the overall process of drafting and revising a paper. They sometimes edit too early - before a draft is even complete - and then assume that all their editing is finished. Or they sometimes leave themselves no time for editing and hand in the paper hot off the printer.
Here are some simple strategies to help encourage students to take editing more seriously:
Encourage students to develop a fuller sense of what they need to edit and proofread for. Over time, collect a list of the most common student errors you see in papers. Include one sample of the problem sentence and a workable revision of the sentence. Such lists can be posted on a class webpage or put on an overhead a week or so before the paper due date.
About a week before the paper is due, put a short version of the above guide on the overhead projector.
Assign a due date for the paper. Have students bring what they believe is the final draft to class. Ask students to exchange papers and proofread, marking all grammatical errors, typos, and instances of your common errors on the draft. After students get their own paper back, tell students that you will collect both the version now in their hands and a corrected, reprinted version of the paper at the next class meeting. Be sure to emphasize the deduction you'll take from their grades if they don't turn in a corrected version of the paper.
When you come across a paper with so many errors that you cannot ignore them, draw a line across the page to indicate how far you read before the distractions overwhelmed you. Return the paper with a new due date and a requirement to edit and proofread the paper before you'll grade it.