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Writer Error Monitoring


This strategy, based on the work of Schumaker & Sheldon (1985), helps students to monitor errors in their writing both effectively and relatively independently. By using the acronym WRITER, they can recall six steps of writing and editing, which supports confidence and success. Students can use this strategy to write increasingly longer and more complex expository compositions. The six steps are: W: Write the paper. R: Read it for meaning. I: Interrogate yourself using COPS acronym (C: capitalization, O: overall appearance, P: punctuation, S: spelling). T: Take the paper to someone else for help. E: Execute a final copy. R: Reread the paper.


Create a handout or display of the six WRITER steps and prepare to model them for students. If students are not totally familiar with COPS, you should also create a handout or display of these steps. Identify the topic about which students will be writing.
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the steps of WRITER, including COPS. Teacher reminds students of what constitutes good sentences, and a good paragraph. Teacher models using WRITER to write and edit an expository composition.
    This activity is intended for students who already have some facility in writing sentences and paragraphs, and are ready to write longer compositions with greater independence.
  2. Teacher presents a topic for writing or students select a topic.
    This activity works with students writing compositions ranging from a single paragraph to multi-page texts.
  3. W: Students write the composition, remembering to use well-constructed sentences and paragraphs, double-spacing if using a computer or skipping lines if writing by hand to enable later editing (or using a computer).
    You may need to support this step with outlines or other guidance on how to construct a good paragraph and a good essay.
  4. R: Students read their text for meaning, ensuring that their ideas are clearly and logically conveyed. They revise as needed for clarity and precision of meaning.
    As you circulate you can cue students with questions such as: · Does this make sense? · Do these ideas fit together? · Is this clear?
  5. I: Students use the acronym COPS to revise the mechanics of the paper. They revise as needed to ensure a well-appearing composition that uses conventional writing mechanics.
    Students make sure that they have used conventional capitalization, punctuation, and spelling, and they inspect the overall appearance of their essay.
  6. T: Students get with a peer and read each other’s papers. Students offer each other comments and guidance on how to improve papers and revise accordingly. If needed, students confer with teachers about how to improve papers.
    At this stage students should get input from at least one peer and the teacher on their paper. You can arrange to confer with each individual or each pair during this step to read the papers, listen to student ideas and questions, and offer guidance.
  7. E: Students write a final copy of the paper, including all the revisions.
    If students are writing by hand, they should write a clean copy at this point. If they are using computers then they should make sure they have incorporated all edits.
  8. R: Students reread their compositions and make any final changes in form or content.
    Encourage students to read their compositions out loud, since this can help them to identify elements they want to change. They may also want to read their compositions to a peer or have someone read the paper back to them as sometimes you can hear mistakes more clearly when they are read aloud to you.
  9. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.
    Students respond to questions including: · How does the WRITER strategy affect your ability to edit your writing? · How might WRITER be useful when you are writing at home? · How might WRITER be useful during an essay exam? · In what other classes might WRITER be useful? How?
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