The last round of our History’s Mysteries Informative essays proved to be a mixed bag of results.
The good things:
Students became more cognizant of analyzing sources for credibility. They learned how to better maintain an objective voice. They noticed how narrative elements in an essay helps create a stronger voice and more interest. They practiced taking a topic, writing about it using different structures, and reflecting on how structure can affect the purpose, voice, and overall power of writing.
These are all very important and very messy lessons of writing. I’m pleased with what they’ve done. But there’s one area I’m quite unhappy about, which leads us to
The bad thing: Proofreading and Editing
Not to mince words, but the editing was appalling. Chalk it up to apathy, senioritis, or my own frequent absences the past few weeks, but the number of even basic errors disturbed me.
Thus, I decided we needed to serious time on proofreading practice.
Proofreading alone isn’t a very compelling lesson. Not many students get fired up about hard core editing and grammar, yet it can’t be ignored.
So I did what I so often do: I turned it into a game.
Specifically, The Easter Egg Error Hunt.
I introduced it to the students by sharing my concerns with their (lack of) proofreading & editing, but also reminded them that this activity would simulate college next year. Professors are unlikely to help students much with proofreading, formatting, and final edits. They would have to use their resources, such as classmates, friends, the tutoring center, or the internet.
Students were allowed to ask me questions, but I gave them examples of good questions and questions I wouldn’t answer. I wouldn’t answer questions such as
- Is there something wrong with this sentence?
- Can you proofread this paragraph?
- How many mistakes do I have in my paper right now?
However, they could ask questions such as
- Did I format this quotation correctly?
- Do I need a comma here?
- Does the apostrophe go before or after the “s” here?
What impressed me even more than the questions they asked were the resources they used. Some added the Grammarly extension, others installed and used add-ons, and still others found websites that allowed them to copy/paste excerpts of their papers and then grammar checked them.
For the first time, I became confident that they coulddo this on their own next year, that now they had a toolbelt of potential resources they could use for editing and proofreading–especially for those who know they struggle with conventions and formatting.
Adding an element of fun and the unknown with the Easter Egg prizes adds another layer that makes this more than “another dull proofreading assignment.” They’re trying to reach levels of mastery–gold ninja, silver ninja, and bronze ninja–but there’s also the potential for winning candy or XP.
Is this bribery? I’m arguing no. I don’t think any of my students are doing the assignment for the sole purpose of possibly winning candy (there’s no guarantee that the egg they draw will have a good prize.) Most of them are doing it because, deep down, they know that proofreading is important, that finding resources to help them is important, and because they all have the potential to achieve gold mastery. Since they can use any resources available, even students with weaker grammar skills can do well.
Plus, choosing random eggs and finding what prize you win is just fun in itself. And school can always be more fun.
Sample prizes I use below: