Helping the Children Edit their Own Writing


Last year my goal for the children was to learn to write a great paragraph.  Thing was I didn’t want to keep repeating myself each day reminding them of everything I expected to see in this great paragraph.  We had used IEW briefly, and whilst I did love it, I’m naff at following any curriculum.  I have a tendency to tweak, in fact it’s almost a compulsion!  There were a few things I really appreciated about IEW and one of those things was the stylistic techniques.  I turned those techniques into a check list and voila! I had me a plan!  I made an ‘informationary‘ – a folder for the children to use full of information: a list of things I wanted included in a paragraph; a list of things I didn’t want to see – words such as said or did – with lists of stronger words to use instead and punctuation I wanted checked before they handed in a piece of work to me.  It was so simple and made a huge difference to their writing.  They knew what I expected and could systematically include everything on the list.  At first there was a slight awkwardness to their writing as they tried to ‘fit’ everything in, but soon it became more comfortable and is now second nature.

This year I wanted to teach them how to write a five paragraph essay.  We have done a few before but they required a lot of involvement from me, pointing them in the right direction.  I do feel that at least two of them are ready to be a little more independent.  Obviously, at 10 and 11, I don’t expect them to be able to write a long essay without any help at all but I would like to begin to nudge them in that direction.

So I set about making another informationary.  This time it would contain all the information I would be requiring from the children when they wrote a five paragraph essay.

I turned two card folders inside out, re-attached them and stuck them together in such a way that the back and front had a pocket to store paper in:


On top of the front pocket I stuck a laminated version of the essay schedule, making clear my expectations of the children throughout each week.  The pocket was there to store their spider diagrams, planning and rough notes, along with their neat copies:


On the inside of the folder I included the indepth information about a five paragraph essay, the stylistic techniques, a list of banned words and copious alternative words the children could choose from instead:



In the pocket at the back I put in a list of grammar rules, so if the children couldn’t remember something or were unsure, they were there to look up.  I am hoping over time they will infiltrate their brains and they’ll learn them off by heart.  I can dream, can’t I?

And last but not least I wrote a check list of the very BASICS I expect from an essay.  (I will be requiring them to tick these off for each piece of work they hand in).  This list will grow as they become more independent, but for now includes capitalisation at the beginning of sentences, punctuation at the end of a sentence and ensuring each sentence is a full sentence – no fragments allowed!


I laminated everything.  Our last informationary became so tattered and dog-eared, I thought I’d try to do something to preserve this one for a bit longer.  Also I want the children to be able to write on this one, cross things out as they include them and tick off the check list at the end – lamination allows them to do just that!

Their first essay will be about William the Conqueror and his reasons for wanting to become king of England, based on an activity we did last week (which I’ll be sharing tomorrow).


  1. I LOVE your Blog- I love history and I love what you have done with it. Here in the States I don’t think history is appreciated as much as it should be. My little boy and I have just finished learining about Mesopotamia and the wonderful ideas you have really made it quite a bit more “hands on” and fun. We hope to learn much more from you and your family. God Bless and keep up the awesome work! p.s.- any chance on anything about Queen Bodicea (sp?) anytime, feel in love with her while visiting England ages ago! Thanks- Tonyia

    1. Aww, thank you! I’m so pleased you could find something helpful. We covered Boadicea when we did the Romans so I’ll probably write about it in one of my ‘looking back’ posts.

  2. Ah hence the desperate hunt for the laminator last night. Do we not have a certain child who writes a five paragraph essay everyday on everything and anything?

    1. Hello! The folders are office document half flap foolscap folders and I use two glued together. I bought ours from our local cartridge world. I looked on Amazon and they sell them there. HTH!

    1. Hi Tracie, Thanks for popping by.
      If you click on the photo and then click again on the text you want to view it should show it clearly. If you have any problems or would like any extra information please feel free to let me know.

    1. I’d love to be able to make one available, but alas I am useless at all thing electronic and wouldn’t have the foggiest clue how to go about making one. If anyone out there wants to give me a tutorial…..

      1. I’m not sure I kept them. I’m just off to bed now (it’s late in the uk) but I’ll look through my files tomorrow for you and see. If I did save them I’ll gladly email them to you.
        I’m very ad hoc about things – think scatty professor, but I promise to have a look!!

      2. Sorry, I didn’t keep them.. If you click on the picture you can see clearly what is written, although I realise that still means you need to type it out yourself. I shall have to get myself into gear and learn how to put printables up, as I do get asked quite often. Maybe one day when I can find that all elusive time…..

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