A buzz word in language instruction is “authentic practice”. Materials writers strive to include authentic sources in their works, and teachers try to maximize students’ communication for real purposes. Authenticity coupled with frequency can make an approach to language instruction very effective. In the writing classroom, frequent practice with authentic texts can develop students’ understanding and use of punctuation. Here are two editing activities to promote good writing skills:
1. News Writer
Choose either a very short article or a brief excerpt from a news source. (My all-time favorite for personal and professional use is The Week Magazine.) Be sure to select a topic that is appropriate for your students in terms of age, interests, and language goals. Hand out copies of the article that have no punctuation. It’s best if you type this yourself instead of simply using correction fluid to erase punctuation marks. By preparing the article yourself, you can use all lower case letters, indicating no sentence breaks. Have students work in pairs to edit the text. They must identify complete statements, capitalizing the first letter of the first word and inserting final punctuation marks. Commas, quotation marks, and all other marks should be added as needed. Finally, hand out copies of the article in its original format. Discuss differences between students’ choices and the choices made by the writer.
2. Partner Swap
This activity is similar to the one above, only instead of you selecting a news article, each student prepares a short original text for another student to edit. Students may write one or two paragraphs, but they should all write the same amount of lines (8-10 lines, for example). Ask them to use block letters and no punctuation. When they “swap” papers, the editor must then use upper and lower case letters appropriately in a rewrite. Once the composition has been rewritten without block letters and with punctuation, the author should read the new copy and either approve or reject the editor’s punctuation. Encourage discussion between partners. The author should submit a final copy to you. Teacher corrections to the final draft can be shared with both the author and the editor.