How Important is Perfection When Publishing Student Writing?

publishing writing instruction writing process Oct 17, 2023

Welcome to the very first Lit Bits blog post, where I answer literacy instruction questions that teachers have submitted. You can fill out this form and submit any question that you have about any element of literacy, and I just might answer it here on the Lit Bits blog or in my video segments on the Elm Tree Education YouTube channel.

Question: How vital is the "perfect" published piece? It's more about practicing the process, right?

When it comes to writing, specifically when children are finished with their current writing piece, the concept of perfection and thorough error correction has sparked different opinions. Some argue for the importance of ensuring accuracy, while others say perfection is not a requirement, as even adults may not consistently achieve flawless writing. 

The purpose of writing

Effective written communication means others can easily comprehend your message. Students must learn that the writer's process is developing an idea, organizing thoughts, drafting, revising, and editing. They also must understand the different purposes of writing (i.e., inform, entertain, persuade, elicit emotions). Those kinds of things are what the whole point of writing is about. So, when it's asked how vital it is to be perfectly published, I'm going to say it depends. It would be best if you asked yourself some questions before you go back to whether or not a piece needs to be "perfectly" published. 

Who are the kids that are in front of you?

You must keep in mind your students' age and development level. Are they kindergartners, or are they fifth graders? Because that's going to determine your expectations of what they're going to be able to do and what a published piece might look like. Also, even if you have a fifth grader, maybe that fifth grader has some individual needs, and just getting them to write anything is a really significant process. So it's going to feel insurmountable  tohave to go back and rewrite something.

What kind of writing tools are the students using?

Are you asking kids to write online in a Google Doc and share their writing for feedback? Or are you having them write it down on paper and then transfer it to a computer eventually? The choice of tools can make a significant difference in accessibility, collaborative opportunities, and efficient editing capabilities. Consider each method's varying advantages and potential challenges, and choose the approach that best suits the students' needs and goals. It's doubtful that you will ask Kindergartners in October to have a perfectly published piece of writing, but 3rd graders, you definitely might, even if they only use pencil and paper. 

What are your expectations?

Consider the steps students will go through, your timeline, and your goals. If editing is a significant focus for a particular writing unit, you'd want students to have a published piece that reflects their efforts. This includes addressing grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling conventions. These factors would shape the final appearance of the published work.  Also, if you are focusing on editing, you might consider taking a picture of the writing before editing so students can compare the two versions of their piece. 

Who will be the intended audience?

Shall we commemorate this piece of writing by sharing it with our parents? Should we invite them to join us in a publishing party? How about inviting the class from next door to come over and read our work? Or maybe we could write persuasive letters to mail them to our intended audience? So, these considerations will also depend on the type of final pieces your students write.  

The importance of clarity--for you and the students

When asking kids to recopy parts or all of their writing as a means of publication, it's essential to consider the time it takes. Extending the publishing process beyond one day may introduce more errors than leaving it as it is. So, keep this in mind. Also, clarify your expectations and ensure that the students know what to expect at the end of the unit and when that will be. Will they present a PowerPoint, contribute to the classroom library, or showcase their work on the hallway wall? Providing a purpose and an audience helps students become better writers as they consider who they are writing for and the result. So, make sure these aspects are crystal clear. Avoid prolonging the unit beyond the intended timeframe of three or four weeks; stretching it out to five, six, seven, or even eight weeks can lead to exhaustion for everyone involved.

So, to sum up...stick to your deadlines. Be clear with your expectations. Think about your purpose. Think about your kids and what they need to be successful. Then, you can determine if the writing piece needs to be "perfectly" published. 

What other thoughts do you have about students publishing their writing? Share them with me through the contact page, or find me on social media and comment on the thread regarding this post!

Have any other questions about writing (or reading)? Submit them for the chance to have them answered by me in a future Lit Bits blog post and video segment. 

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