Proofreading Strategies. Beth Mohon & Kim Baker. How do I teach my students to proofread by themselves?. Outline. Why we chose this method What you’ll need to prepare Minimal Marking Error Logs Handouts. Why we chose this method. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
Text of Proofreading Strategies
Proofreading StrategiesHow do I teach my students to proofread by
What you’ll need to prepare
Why we chose this method
We are advocating this method because we feel it will promote
involvement of individual students in the proofreading/editing
stage of their work and may hold students’ attention longer than a
Many students are already writing their papers on the computer, so
the use of technology in this lesson plan may make proofreading
appear more relevant to them.
(This method is just one of many possible ways to
approach the task of student revision processes.)
Review your student’s drafts and decide which issues you most want
to focus on for this activity. Use minimal marking to bring errors
to students’ attention.
Students must be told ahead of time to bring in an electronic
version of their paper draft.
They must also be aware of any classroom changes you may have to
Things you’ll need to do to prepare:
Talk to someone in the English department or the library about
reserving a computer lab.
Things you’ll need to do to prepare:
Before reserving the lab, consider:
When will be the best day in the class schedule to go?
What drafting stage must the students be in to do this
How much time am I willing to put into this activity to tailor it
to my students’ needs?
Additionally, you may want to put the handouts associated with this
activity on Blackboard before the students come to class, so that
they can print them.
Things you’ll need to do to prepare:
You also may want to require a homework grade for bringing the
electronic copy of their essay.
What is it and how Do you do it?
Richard H. Haswell “Minimal Marking” (1983)
Haswell is responding to Knoblauch and Brannon’s research (1981)
which claims teacher’s written corrections are ineffective in
improving students’ grammar.
Knoblauch and Brannon propose that effective pedagogy “1)
facilitates rather than judges, 2) emphasizes performance rather
than finished product, 3) provides double feedback, before and
after revision, and 4) helps bridge successive drafts by requiring
immediate revision” (600).
Ensures that students will not be overburdened by exhaustive
Saves instructors time and torment from writing exhaustive
How Haswell does it
Haswell’s classroom procedure follows this pattern:
Notes grammar errors with a check in the margin of a student’s
paper (nothing is written within the student’s text)
Two checks in the margin indicates two errors within the text of
the paper, three checks … and so on
Haswell returns papers to students at the end of class and allows
them to attempt to correct these errors
He offers help and explanations through subsequent comments and
only grades papers after students have attempted to correct their
How we’re different
With this method, Haswell reports that students can correct 60-70%
of their own errors with minimal prompting. Lisman also finds that
60% of errors are corrected by her “least capable students”
An important difference between Haswell’s method and what we have
planned is that we intend to list for students at the top of the
page the different varieties of errors that we found. We are also
introducing grammar rules immediately into the classroom in
conjunction with students reviewing our minimal marks.
Haswell notes after explaining the benefits of his method that he
does periodically lecture about grammar rules throughout the
semester. So this technique is not quite the miracle sans
instruction that some may initially perceive it as.
Nice chart about how minimal marking works!
Over the course of a freshman comp class,
the drop was from 4.6 errors per 100 words to 2.2 (52%).
More about errors
Students typically correct all varieties of errors at the same
rate. Grammar mistakes, in Haswell’s estimation, generally
constitute “threshold errors, standing on the edge of competence in
an unstable posture of disjunction (‘I know it is either conceive
or concieve’) or of half-discarded fossilization (‘I don't know why
I capitalized “Fraternities.” I know that's wrong.’) (602).
Further, errors “mark stages,” in David Bartholomae's words, “on
route to mastery” (qtd. in Haswell 602).
Students have already learned grammar rules. They need to solidify
that knowledge and feel that they are capable to apply it.
Let’s take a break from the PowerPoint
to look at our handouts.
What are they and how do they function?
Referencing Jane Cogie’s “Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value
of the Error Correction Process.”
Note this essay focuses working in Writing Centers with ESL
The main goal of this work is to make ESL students more
This goal also coincides with our thoughts on the process of
proofreading and editing. For these practices to be successful and
helpful to the student, the student must take responisbility for
locating and correcting their work.
Like minimal marking, keeping and maintiaining an error log takes
time on the part of the instructor and the student. However, as
Cogie states “once the [instructor] has introduced these strategies
and guided the . . . Student through their application, the student
should be able to begin to practice to use them independently.”
What Goes in an Error Log?
The error log we have created asks the student to record the type
of error, the rule associated with that error, the full sentence in
which the errror occurs, and the corrected sentence.
Cogie notes that it’s important to include the full sentence in
which the error occures “. . .to provide a clear context for the
target feature and promote rule acquisition. . .” (19)
The rule should be recorded because “the more students know about
the rules of grammar, the easier it will be for them to cover more
types of errors and make progress in learning to self edit.”
Does it work?
Cogie referenced one student in her Writing Center who, after using
an error log “. . .was able to see the pattern of her most
significant problems. Although her writing did not become
error-free, the number of errors was reduced significantly, by an
estimated 35%.” (20)
So yes, but…
They have to be used!
Error logs can’t work if they aren’t used and maintained. We are
suggesting an activity for a paper dealing with error logs, but to
be the most helpful this must be a project that is maintained
throughout the course.
In other words, don’t just use it for paper 2, but also paper 3 and
paper 4. This way students have more exposure to the log as they
continue to update it.
Haswell also emphasizes that for minimal marking to work, it should
be maintained over the course of a semester.
As Cogie says “. . .the ultimate goal for our students is not
error-free drafts . . .but rather the ability to edit their own
The key word with this activity is “independence”.
What can you do after this?
Follow ups activities
After students have completed the grammar workshop and in
particular the style workshop ask them to reflect.
What do they learn about their writing through this activity?
What did they learn by comparing their sentence structures to their
classmates? – to professional writers?
How to continue with the error log
In her essay, Cogie mentions an activity that students who are more
aware of the types of errors they make can participate in.
She suggests having students list the three most frequent erros
they make that deserve priority. (21) These issues would be the
ones the student focuses on for that particular piece.
Instructors may want to add their own ideas about which error is
most prevelant in the student’s work.
Cogie, Jane and Kim Strain and Sharon Lorinskas. “Avoiding the
Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process.” The
Writing Center Journal 19.2 (1999): 7-31.
Haswell, Richard H. “Minimal Marking.” College English 45.6 (1983):