This is a new series of posts that show editing in a whole new light. Editing is what you do naturally when you look at something and decide to change it. It might be a little bit or a lot, and it’s not just for words.
This is a frame I made last year December. It was
my first try. I made 4 more as Christmas gifts. This is the worst one. Why? Your first draft is your worst. I didn’t practice and test drive my idea. When I finished, I found flaws. Look closely at the right side. You’ll see gaps because I did 4 thin strips. My daughter immediately suggested doing 1 wide one. Frames 2-5 are better because my daughter edited my first attempt, and best of all, she loved her gift! I’m so glad she looked.
The inside is the same on all 5 frames. Why? I tried maybe thirty different ways to put it together. I settled on my favorite. This is it. Would you believe now, a year later, I’d change it? I’d add a border between the top and bottom pictures. Editing never stops. Before you turn in your next assignment, project, or test, EDIT! You will find your flaws, and you’ll be glad you found them. Happy editing!
Last week I visited Mrs. Christy Allen’s third graders at Valley View Elementary again. Christy was kind enough to let me try out a new idea, a program to focus on editing skills for grades 3-5. This is where testing begins, and proofreading skills are critical. I talked to her students about how I work in my critique group and with my two partners. Then we turned her classroom into one big critique group. Our assignment: to edit book reports. Our goal: to improve scores and model good editing skills
We started easy, with books I just checked out from the library. Books help me write. I’m always reading new ones. They keep me current with what’s being published. I learn what I love, then I try applying it. I also learn what I dislike, and I try to avoid it. Reading builds writing skills for me, and for students too. It’s an excellent thing!
We also looked at what good writing actually is by reading a few short cards. The cards gave us a quick way to measure writing. We used a simple scale: love, like, or needs work. We talked about why some cards were love, and why others needed work. The need-work cards all had main ideas, but were missing specific details. Good writing is specific. It has enough detail to support it.
Next I showed them how I edit, and why. I spent the least time here. Last September I learned my story was flat. It was from someone I trust. I’ve worked on it for 6 years, but it needed something more. I showed Christy’s students what I’ve learned, and later I taught them the same lesson. A good critique tells what you do well. It gives you hope, but more importantly, it tells what you’re missing. It helps you improve.
To push my writing, I now shade it with details from the main character’s five senses. I also show more world view by editing in what all my characters think and feel. I highlight in different colors to help me see what’s in my words, and more importantly, what’s missing. Every time I edit a chapter, I reread it 3 times, and every time I reread, I add, delete, or change something. When I finish a chapter, I proof a set of three old ones, yes, 3 times. You can never reread or edit a chapter too much! If I had to guess how many times I’ve edited my book, I’d put in in the hundreds, maybe even the low thousands. I LOVE to edit! Can you guess my favorite number…3!
We spent most of the time editing student writing, which was the goal of this program. Students volunteered their work. If they didn’t feel comfortable sharing, they didn’t have to. But, if they wanted my help finding mistakes, they did. A girl said she didn’t want to volunteer. I told her no problem, and, out of three classes, I had only one student get upset. He hid behind a bookcase. I got him to come out, easy-peasy…I told him about my 10 years of trying, failing, AND learning. It worked! Big time! I guess misery needs company!
My student writer picked a friend to read their writing. My trick (I learned from an agent)..where ever the friend stumbled, this is a place to edit. Mrs. Christy marked it with a dot. (A student writer could too.) All students could see and hear where the mistakes were, especially its author. As a critique group, we went back and uncovered why. Sure enough, these stumbles were mistakes in punctuation, spelling, or awkward sentences. Skills that Mrs. Christy taught, but needed to be applied. This why all writers (students, professionals, and me) need to go back and edit. You’re never perfect on the first try. EVER! Before editing, we also graded the piece wholistically (love, like, or needs improvement). A few times I asked Mrs. Christy post-editing, if her student made the suggested changes, if their grade would change. Can you guess her answer…YES! DUH! OF COURSE!
I’m already looking at ways to edit this presentation. With Mrs. Christy’s class I was lucky enough to have 90 minutes. Looking back, I’d still work in 10 or 15 minute blocks, whether I had 60 minutes or 90. I’d move back and forth from my materials to student writing. I’d start with a library book and a few of my cards, my resources. Then I’d do class critiques for 10-15 minutes, longer if I held their attention. I’d rotate back and forth between my stuff and student writing to keep kids with me.
When I did the slide show, the kids loved it! It was easy to pay attention. This was harder, much harder. I plan on checking with Mrs. Christy now that it’s a week later. It’s great to hear what went well, but it’s more important to hear what could improve. I especially want to hear about those reports, whether I worked with the student or not. I’m hoping it made a difference. Fingers crossed!
Beach’s Best Writing Tips:
1. Write “loose” when working on your first draft. Don’t worry, just keep writing! Let it flow! Then go back later and tighten things up by editing. If you get lost in your draft, go back and reread. Look at your outline. It works for me, and it can work for you too.
2. Your first draft is your worst. When you reread, you will find errors. Finding those errors and correcting them will improve your writing…and your grade.
3. Reread your work in sets of 3. Take a break, then do another set of 3. It’s my go-to editing number.
4. Why 3? When you make a change, it may ripple through your writing. If it’s small, it can change something a sentence later, like spelling or subject/verb agreement. Maybe it won’t. You have to reread to find out. But, if it’s huge, it will splash through your whole piece. In my ant story, I discovered they use belly holes for breathing. That one small fact dropped a boulder in my story. I had to reread every breathing sentence from chapter one all the way to 15. Take the time to edit! It’s worth it!
5. First drafts are like gems covered in dirt. It’s hard to see what’s under the grime. It’s the same with your first draft. How do you uncover your gem? Polish and edit your work. It’s simple. It takes a little time…and brain power. But’s easy-peasy!
6. Editing is like fishing. Really! You throw out a line, and, a few more words/sentences. Or, you reel the line in, and cut words/sentences. You keep doing it till your words are complete, and snagfree.
7. Read your work aloud, or with those tube phones/whisper phones. They let hear your work without bothering a neighbor. You read too fast in your head. Reading out loud slows you down. It helps your brain find mistakes. If you’re working on a computer, try changing the font, font size, or both. It slows you down too, so you can find those mistakes.
8. Don’t be afraid to work in a critique group, especially if you have trouble finding mistakes. This is like the phone-a-friend strategy from game shows. Your best friend can even read it to you. Remember first drafts are always terrible, even for published writers. Plus you’ll know exactly where/how to start editing. That’s why I go to critique groups. If it’s still too embarassing, watch the mistakes your classmates make, then look for those in your work. Kids tend to make the same mistakes, year after year. Really!
9. How do you know when you’re done? When I’m changing little words around (like a and the) again and again, put a fork in it. You’re finished!
10. Another way to know is by picturing editing, like running fingers through your hair. You keep rereading until the knots/errors are gone. If you keep hitting snags, keep going! Don’t stop!
11. For teachers: If I returned to classroom teaching, I’d use critique groups to teach editing skills. I’d start whole class, move to ability groups, and then into peer tutoring. In 2nd grade, it might take a half a year, but I think my students, and yours, would possess better editing skills.
12. I can edit in front of your class. I’m always editing my work. If you and your class would like to see an unpublished writer edit in real time, contact me. I’d love to do it! I can talk about what I’m doing and why. Modeling is a great way to show kids good habits in action.
13. I understand authors’ purpose because I do it everyday, like editing. I’m glad to talk to author’s purpose with your class. I can use my work or a story you’re reading.
14. I also have a new editing technique that could be great for student retellings. I write two sentences for every chapter, a plotline and a heartline. The plotline tells what the chapter’s about. Heartline tells the big emotion/s of the chapter. A well written chapter has both. It’s a good quick way for students to track their reading, and for teachers to track their students.
15. Teachers: If you’d like me to come in and model/do a class critique group this year or next year, please contact me. I’m happy to use your checklists or rubrics. I love to work with teachers and kids, and most of all, I love talking about writing!
As a writer, you use critiques and criticism to get better. As a teacher, you try to get things right, and you correct mistakes. Greg, my Armstrong museum friend and colleague, pointed out a few mistakes, and here are my corrections:
Neil never flew this plane over Korea, but he did fly it later as a test pilot for NASA. Neil flew everything from bombers to experimental rocket planes to futuristic simulators. Greg said this plane is an F5D Skylancer. I googled and discovered it was once cutting edge technology! Neil flew it low towards a marker, then rocketed up 7000 feet into the atmosphere, like 1.3 miles. He did a loop, rolled the plane upright, and finished with a smooth unpowered landing. Wow, what a ride! But, this plane led Neil to even bigger and better things. As a test pilot, he once flew 39.2 miles into our atmosphere. He didn’t make it into outer space, yet. You have to go 50 miles to get there, and Neil did!
This is the real F9F Panther. Neil flew planes like this over Korea. He didn’t fly 72 combat missions. He flew more…78. Here’s the best fact Greg gave me: In 1951 Neil flew a bombing run over North Korea and ejected because his plane was damaged. Aren’t you glad he made it back safely!
The only correction for the Gemini 8 mission is that Neil and Dave only stayed in space for 10 hours and 40 minutes. I don’t think Neil was thinking about those seats. I bet he was disappointed his 3-day ride was cut way too short.
This is Neil’s suit, but I’m sorry to tell you, it didn’t make it to the moon.
But, it really was his back-up suit, and it really was one of the three
suits made just for him. The suit you see weighed about 47 pounds,
but, when Neil was completely dressed for spacewalks, he wore 190
pounds of suit. Talk about heavy duty! With all that weight, Neil
could survive outside the space capsule for 6 hours. His back-up
life support gave him an extra 30 minutes, in case he had an emergency.
This post reminded me that it’s OK to make mistakes. It’s even better to correct them. But the best thing… is to learn from them. I learned, for anything technical about air and space, I need to proof my content with an expert before posting. Greg read this before I published it, and you can bet I’ll check with him in the future!
I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes too. I also hope you’ll get something good from them like learning more about Neil and the Armstrong Museum exhibits. That’s a great thing! Here’s to mistakes, and, turning them into opportunities!
Welcome to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. It opened in 1972 to honor Wapak’s hometown hero, Neil Armstrong. In 1969 he was the first man to set foot on the moon. Take a quick tour of some of the museum’s hot spots.
This is the first plane Neil flew. Neil either walked or rode his bike to an airport just outside of Wapak to take flight lessons. Would you believe Neil learned to fly at age 15, and that he got his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license? He was 16 years old.
This plane sits outside in the museum parking lot. It’s one of the real planes Neil flew over Korea. He was a Navy pilot during the Korean War. Neil flew 72 missions, mostly in 1951 and 1952. He was 22 years old in 1952 when he left the Navy to return to Purdue University.
This is the real Gemini VIII. In 1966 Neil orbited the earth in this spaceship with David Scott. They almost died in it too. After docking with a satellite, the ship began to spin. After undocking, Neil had 30 seconds to get the ship under control. He made it! Maybe you can too. Test your skills in the museum’s simulator. Don’t forget to look inside the capsule. Can you imagine sitting in those seats for 75 hours? That’s 3 days and 3 hours. That’s a long time in those little seats! Neil was 36.
This is Neil’s real space suit. It went to the moon with him in 1969, but he never wore it there. The on, in Wapak was his spare. The suit he actually wore on the moon is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Both suits weigh about 190 pounds. They’re made of 21 layers of synthetics, neoprene rubber, and metalized polyester films. Back in 1969 the suit cost about $100,000. In today’s dollars that’s about $670,000. But, the suit was like wearing a personal spaceship. It protected Neil and Buzz from the dangers of the lunar environment, like extreme hot and cold, no air, ultraviolet radiation, and micrometeorites flying 10 miles per second at you. It was a very good thing!
After you finish touring the Armstrong Museum, head south on I75 towards Dayton, Ohio. You can tour the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This is an aerial view of the museum. It’s huge! I picked 4 of their exhibits.
Do you remember the Wright brothers? This exhibit showcases their 1909 Military Flyer. It was the first military heavier-than-air flying machine ever. That’s a mouthful! In 1909 it sold for $30,000. This isn’t the real plane, but, it’s a great reproduction put together in 1955. The engine was donated by Orville. The chains, sprockets, and propellers was donated by the Wright Brothers’ estate.
In 1930 the War Department thought about hiring female pilots, but thought they were too high strung for the job. By 1942 men were off flying WWII combat missions, and the Department needed women to pick up the slack. The Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASP was born. Experienced women pilots now took over service flights within the US for the War Department. By 1943 there were 1000 WASP’s serving their county. They broke ground for today’s lady pilots.
This is the Lockheed JetStar. This star of a plane carried presidents, high ranking government officials, and visiting leaders from other countries. The Air Force bought 6 JetStars in 1961. This JetStar was never officially Air Force 1, but it carried Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. It was retired in July 1987 after 26years of service. It truly was a star of a plane!
In July of 1971 this vehicle made it to the moon. It is the Apollo 15 command module, Endeavor. It was the fourth spaceship (of 6) to make it to the moon. The trip took 12 days total. The astronauts were only there for 67 hours. That’s almost 3 days (5 hours short). The astronauts were supposed to do lunar science experiments. They also got to ride on the first lunar rover, AKA moon buggy. Wouldn’t you love to rocket to the moon, then take a ride in a moon buggy? Would you believe Endeavor is checked out to the Air Force Museum, kind of like a library book? It’s on loan from Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
If you enjoyed reading and looking at planes and spaceships, schedule a trip to my favorite museums, or one near you. There’s so much to see and do! You’ll love it!
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!