Editing Punctuation, Capitalization, Spelling, and Grammar: Impact of Attention, Memory, Language and Higher Order Cognition

After students have revised their writing by adding new content and ideas, they need to edit their work for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar. To do this, students need to understand and remember the different rules for editing. They also need to be able to reread what they have written and identify errors.

To correctly spell, students need to have a good understanding about the sounds words are made up of, and how these sounds can be put into letters and words on paper. Some students are very good at remembering what words look like, others can sound out the word as they are spelling it.

Here are some strategies to develop and strengthen students' ability to edit punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar.

Helpful Hints

  • Have students develop their own thesaurus to refer to while editing their writing. Students can work as teams, in small groups, or as a class to come up with other ways to say common words such as "said," "got," and "happy." Students could organize this thesaurus alphabetically or by theme. For example, students could brainstorm a list of words they could use for mystery stories or for adventure stories.  
  • To practice combining shorter sentences, write two sentences on the board and let the students know that the sentences can be made more interesting by combining the two. List some conjunctions that may be useful next to the two sentences. Have the students combine the two sentences.  
  • Have students listen to a paragraph that contains verbs that enable them to see what is happening. Have the students say why the specific verbs made the paragraph more interesting. Then have the students write sentences using specific words.  
  • Provide specific age-appropriate strategies for the student to use to check his/her work, for example for proofing written work COPS (Capitalization-Organization-Punctuation-Spelling) or SCAN (Does each sentence make sense?-Is each sentence connected to my topic?-Can I add more?-Note errors in each sentence.).  
  • Post a list of the punctuation rules on the wall of the classroom. Some students may prefer to make their own list of these rules to keep at their desk to refer to while they are writing or revising their work.  
  • Copy page from students' favorite books, magazines, or newspapers. Circle or highlight the punctuation used on the page. Have students discuss why the author used each type of punctuation.  
  • Provide students with a list or paragraph of completed sentences. Have students fill in which type of punctuations could be used. Sentences from books, magazines, or even comic strips can be used.  
  • Show students how punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence. Model an example by writing one sentence on the board three times – once with a question mark, once with an explanation point, once with a period. Discuss how it changes the meaning of the sentence. For example, "You took my new book?" "You took my new book!" and "You took my new book." Have students read the sentences aloud to demonstrate how the punctuation can even influence what word is emphasized and how the right punctuation can help the reader know what the writer is trying to say.  
  • Let the students perform tasks that require them to correct misuses of capitalization. For example, copy pages from students' favorite books, magazines, or newspapers. Circle or highlight the capitalization used on the page. Have students discuss what capitalization rules the author followed.  
  • Provide students with a list or paragraph of completed sentences with no capital letters. Have students correct which letters should be capitalized. Sentences from books, magazines, or even comic strips can be used.  
  • Teach students how to use a computer spell-check program. Use other computer software such as Co:Writer and Write:OutLoud, which allow a student to attempt the first letters of words when writing and the program will predict what the student is trying to say and give a short list of possible words. This can encourage students to use larger, more sophisticated vocabulary that they would likely have trouble spelling. It also will read the list of words and the complete sentence when finished so that the writer can auditorily proof his writing.  
  • Teach spelling as part of a larger lesson/activities/methods.  
  • Have students make their own dictionary of most commonly misspelled words. They can keep this at their desk to refer to while they are editing their writing.  
  • To de-emphasize worrying about spelling first (rather than ideas and content), give students an ending of a book to read that has been reproduced with spelling errors. During a discussion, stress the great ideas and description the author used and that the final step would be to correct the spelling.  
  • Students should be shown strategies for looking up words in a dictionary when they are not sure how to spell them. This can be difficult for students to do if they have trouble sounding out the different sounds of a word.  
  • Make sure to consider the students' native language or dialect spoken at home. This can be important in explaining to students the difference between spoken language and written language.  
  • Help the student understand what type of grammar rules are used when writing. Have students write something the way they would speak it and then work with the student to "translate" it.  
  • Have the student complete assignments that involve him/her supplying the correct agreement and writing sentences with correct agreement. Allow the student to check others' work for mistakes. Make sure that the student understands why a subject and verb agree. Review with the student why a subject goes with a verb. When the student correctly matches a subject and verb, praise the student.  
  • Give the student a list of verb tenses with commonly used verbs. Give the student activities that involve supplying the correct verb tense. Give the student a writing assignment that involves writing in only one tense. Have the student check work for mistakes. Let the student practice conjugation of verb tenses with friends. Praise the student for correct usage of tenses.  
  • Have students find correct use of grammatical rules in their favorite books or magazines.