Essay Editing 101 Activity

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Updated on Oct 31, 2013

Many parents are faced with a crisis when their fifth-grader hands them a three-page essay that's full of mechanical errors. Where to begin? To help your child refresh his knowledge of grammar, try the CUPS strategy. CUPS, which stands for Capitalization, Usage, Punctuation, and Spelling, is a useful tool when helping your student edit a writing piece. Plus, it's an activity you can do together!

What You Need:

  • Rough draft of writing piece (2 copies)
  • Permanent markers

What You Do:

  1. On a separate sheet of paper, write the following acronym, with each letter written in a different color:

C ___
U ___
P ___
S ___
  1. Begin with “C.” Scan your child's essay together (each with your own copy) looking only for capitalization errors. Make corrections in the “C” color. Once all capitalization errors have been identified and corrected, put a check next to the “C.”
  2. Move on to “U.” Follow the same process, but have the student read the writing piece aloud. If there are errors, ask, “Does that sound right? Did you use the correct words? How can you make it sound better?" Make corrections in the “U” color and put a check next to the “U.”
  3. Follow the same process for “P” and “S.” Use corresponding colors when fixing punctuation and spelling errors.

CUPS is a useful strategy for helping your child become an independent writer. It is a quick acronym students can jot down at the bottom of any piece of writing to help narrow their focus when making corrections. In this way, revising and editing are made simple — and the steps are easy to remember — C-U-P-S!

Brigid Del Carmen has a Master's Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders/Emotional Impairments. Over the past eight years, she has taught Language Arts, Reading and Math in her middle school special education classroom.

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