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Daily proofreading practice builds skills that will last a lifetime and it’s a great way to kick off the new school year. We can probably agree that more and more students seem oblivious to proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. As good educators we all ponder the reasons why and then we pull every trick we know out of English teaching magician’s hat to teach those missing skills.


Do you consistently have students use proofreading symbols to find errors in written work (either for practice or with peers’ drafts)? Do you use those symbols when marking on their printed drafts? What are the implications for teaching proper proofreading when it’s now possible to comment on drafts electronically? The chart featured below can also be accessed by clicking on this link to the Proofreading Symbols handout. At the beginning of the year, every student should receive the handout to keep in their binder for quick access or you might want to consider laminating a classroom set.


Picture of Proofreading Symbols

The Proofreading Procedure

Every class, except for test days and other special occasions, should begin with a proofreading activity. Upon entering the classroom, the routine is for students to grab the bell work activity from a designated basket. There should always be 10 errors in paragraph. As soon as the bell rings, welcome everyone and then read the paragraph aloud or have a student read. Provide a few minutes for students to mark as many errors as possible on their own. It’s usually best to walk up and down the aisles to get a peek at their work. Next, slowly provide hints (going in order) on the type of corrections that need to be made. That will help reluctant or slower proofreaders do better and re-affirm the work of students who find most of the errors on their own. Finally, have students come to the front of the classroom and make corrections sentence by sentence on the SmartBoard or overhead projector. I like randomly calling on students by drawing notecards that have their names written down. Consider having students keep each daily exercise so they can hand them in as a packet at the end of the quarter for five points each. If paper use is a factor, these skills can be practiced without individual photocopies, but students tend to focus much better when the exercise is on a printout.


Do you use standard proofreading marks either in your own life or in the classroom?


Feel free to download the proofreading marks sheet and use it as you see fit by using the link above.

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