Do you know how to teach editing in your classroom? Or do you think it’s too much stress and it’s easier to do it yourself? 

I was in the second camp for several years. But in my heart of hearts I knew I wasn’t helping my students by doing the editing for grammar and punctuation on their papers. 

Here’s how it came about. My son had a fabulous teacher in 5th grade who was meticulous about reviewing and grading work. Even though my son was a good writer, all of his papers came back with editing marks on them for grammar issues. I thought that’s what teachers were supposed to do. 

But when I became a teacher I noticed something strange. Even though I went over the students’ papers and made notes about things they should change, instead of correcting their own writing, they just wrote their final drafts with the same mistakes. Has that ever happened to you? 

Obviously, the students weren’t learning editing skills. I needed to change that.

Can Students Learn to Edit Their Writing?

First, I went on a mission to find out how to teach students to peer edit and self edit so they could learn to correct their own mistakes. I asked other teachers what they did. I asked my principal.

Next, I scoured online forums and groups.

Finally, I decided to adapt C.U.P.S. editing with my own tools and strategies. I used it for years, and each year worked on making it better. 

Today I’m sharing that system with you, my friend.

Teaching Editing with C.U.P.S.

CUPS editing tools

This system is part of my Daily Writing Prompts digital journal. The students use this interactive version to drag highlighters across their writing to edit. It’s strictly for editing grammar and punctuation. It’s not for revising or editing for theme, voice, or content. It’s called C.U.P.S. Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym before today, but here’s what each letter represents.

Here are the steps I found most effective in teaching editing for grammar and punctuation.

  1. Students sit together if they are peer editing or alone if they’re self editing.
  2. They have four highlighting strips. One is for capitalization, one is for usage, one is for punctuation, one is for spelling. 
  3. Using a reading guide highlighter, or in the case of my digital notebook, a moveable highlighter strip, the student reads the paragraph out loud four times. 
  4. In the first pass, they read the entire paragraph out loud with the highlighting strip for capitalization. Anywhere they need to capitalize a word, they stop and correct it.
  5. After that, they do the same with the usage highlighter strip. I like to use four different colors of strips. You can see that in the image of the highlighters.
  6. Third, they read the paragraph aloud again for punctuation.
  7. Finally, they read the paragraph aloud again with the highlighter strip for spelling and they circle any words they think might be misspelled.

Using the C.U.P.S. system, students should be able to edit a one page writing assignment in about 5 minutes. Even if it’s not perfect, just remember that “Done is Better than Perfect.” 

Watch This Video to Learn More About Editing With CUPS

Teach Editing to the Class or Small Groups First

Of course, you’ll want to teach this system to your students in small groups before you have them do their own editing. No matter how good they get at it, they’re still going to come to you with questions about grammar points in their writing. That’s wonderful! It means they’re becoming more cognizant of their own writing. They’re learning to be aware of the words they put to pen or keyboard. The next image is a page of student instructions. (Just in case they forget!) 🙂

CUPS Editing Tool Directions

If you encourage daily writing in your classroom, they’ll get better and better at this as the school year passes.

If You Teach Editing It Saves You Time

At first, it may seem time-intensive to do this. But it’s an investment for your future and it’s well worth it. In the end, once you’ve taught the students how to do this, you’ll have extra time to work with students one-to-one or in small groups. You’ll be reviewing their writing in class, instead of on the weekends at home. 

After you’ve taught this skill, two very wonderful things will happen.

  1. Students will be doing more of the work and learning more.
  2. You’ll never have to edit writing at home on a weekend again.

I hope these tips and this system are helpful to you. I have more free writing checklists and tools for you on my Resources page.



P.S. Before you go, if you or another teacher wants to learn how to simplify and organize their workday, I’d love for you to share this post.

?You might also enjoy the FREE video series?

Plan Your Year Like a Boss in 5 Days or Less

If you can curriculum map your year, you’ll be more relaxed, less stressed, and you’ll make time for the important things.

Because every teacher deserves the weekend to relax!