As the speech-language provider, I am often working to increase student independence in the writing process. There are, of course, many components to be addressed – brainstorming, outlining, drafting, etc. – yet I invariably find myself having to take the lead when it comes to proofreading. Many of my students have spent their entire educational careers never reading over their essays before submission and have therefore reinforced this habit over time. I notice a number of reasons for this, including: not knowing what types of errors to look for, not having any tangible proofreading strategies, not wanting to spend one more second looking at an assignment on which they, as language impaired students, have already expended so much energy. Because this is not a skill that they have consistently practiced over the years, many of my students require explicit instructions and prompting throughout the editing process. They wait for an adult to direct them to specific errors, rather than attempting to reread their work through an editing lens. Thus, one of my goals is to increase student awareness and ownership in the editing process.
With my students, I have identified two key barriers to proofreading. The first is that editing is often viewed as an optional step vs. an integral part of the writing process. The second is that students lack a system for identifying errors in their work. While pushing into classes during project work time, I often see students absentmindedly hitting “resolve” in response to an edit from one of their teachers in Google Drive or, in some cases, never even turning in a final copy of their work – the draft is viewed as sufficient. While there is much value in viewing suggestions or edits from teachers, I don’t feel that some of my students are absorbing the editing process in these moments. Thus, it is my role to help these students become more autonomous editors.
In order to work toward the goal of generating independent proofreaders, I will create a reusable checklist as a reference for students once they’ve finished their drafts. Generally speaking, one of the hallmarks of related services in the academic setting is to fade prompting and support over time in order to facilitate independence on a task. In this instance, the goal is not to teach students to be experts at recognizing subject/verb errors or spotting run-ons. It’s bigger than that. It’s about giving students a tool that, over time and with habit, will allow them to be more successful, independent editors and to see a writing task through from start to finish. Realistically, many of my students will still need editing help from their teachers; however, the purpose of this checklist is to put the ownership in the hands of the students so that they can independently begin the editing process.