If there are spelling and grammatical errors, assume that the same level of attention to detail probably went into the gathering and reporting of the “facts” given on the site.
My husband and I love reading the Sunday newspaper the old-fashioned way: slowly, working through each section, and spread out throughout the morning. In winter, we sprawl on the carpeted floor; in the summer, we settle into our designated chairs on our patio. We sip our coffee and read quietly, occasionally interrupting the silent camaraderie by discussing interesting stories and features. It’s my favorite time of the week, hands down.
At some point, every Sunday, I can count on my husband to let out an irritated, frustrated lament: “Doesn’t anyone proofread this stuff before it goes to print?” He’ll snap the paper shut and march off to warm his coffee, shaking his head.
He’s talking about simple, silly things. Grammatical errors. Spelling missteps. Inaccurate word substitutions. They seem to happen a lot. They are the kind that should be caught by someone before press time.
This week there was a big one, right on the front page, just a few paragraphs into a story about potential unrest at a political event in Cleveland. Discussing fears about the potential for violence, the newspaper quoted an attendee: “Thoughts are with are law-enforcement personal.”
I’ve never worked in a newsroom, so I certainly should not judge. Maybe these kinds of errors are inevitable. There may be a hundred different reasons that they are not caught and fixed. But even as I try not to be critical, the English teacher in me can’t help but wonder why these errors occur so frequently.
My husband will come back into the room and continue his tirade. “Think about the communication I send out at work. I don’t make these kinds of mistakes, right?” He’s asking because I frequently see his written communications.
I tell him I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen him make a mistake.
“Because I have someone else read them first,” he says slowly, as if speaking to a child.
The benefits of having others read our communication before we send it out into the world can’t be overemphasized. Errors stop our readers mid-stride. They muddle our intended meaning. They make us seem hurried, careless, and flawed in our message. All of which discounts what we are trying to say.
We expect better from our students; when we teach them to write, we spend a lot of time insisting that they think about grammar, mechanics, spelling, and word choice. We ask them to use self-editing and peer editors. We, ourselves, point out errors and ask that they make the appropriate changes.
Let’s face it: if one of our students turned in a formal, final paper and substituted “are” for “our” and “personal” for “personnel” (in the same sentence) we would be pretty disappointed.
The errors in my Sunday newspaper probably won’t go away anytime soon. But for myself, I strive to meet a higher standard. I only want my best work to be out in the universe of readers. It’s something we can all aspire to, right? One writer at a time, we should set a standard for accuracy and error-free writing. Our writing won’t be perfect, but we sure can try.
This week we look at teaching conventions. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. She enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can follow her latest thinking on literacy and leadership on her blog.
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Heather Rader works with a team of intermediate teachers to ferret out what does and doesn’t work in teaching conventions, based on research and experience:
Jeff Anderson helps students name and use conventions in explanatory texts through close reading of a mentor text:
Learn this simple strategy for deciding between using who and whom in a sentence and you’ll never confuse the two again:
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Jennifer Schwanke finds that a scavenger hunt for errors to add to a bulletin board is a great way to build editing skills and a writing community all year long in her seventh-grade classroom:
Melanie Meehan discovers that the spare form of poetry is especially useful for teaching conventions:
Shari Frost challenges assignments in reading workshop that kill a love of wordplay and vocabulary development in Toward More Meaningful Extension Activities:
In this week’s video, Heather Rader shares a process for teaching peer editing and revision skills that helps students learn how to assist each other kindly during writer’s workshop. This is the first video in a three-part series:
In an encore video, Linda Karamatic is launching a unit on punctuation with her second graders that includes mentor texts, inquiry, and anchor charts:
That’s all for this week!