The Never-Ending Due Date: How allowing revisions after the final copy will strengthen students' writing skills

For years, I would return my students' papers covered with meaningful feedback only to see them glance at their grades, and then toss their work aside. It was frustrating to spend so much time providing meaningful feedback only to see it go unnoticed. 

A simple shift in our writing process changed all of that: I started allowing my students to turn in their paper over and over again. After the "final" copy was turned in, and I had given feedback and a grade, I started allowing my students to revise and edit their paper for a higher grade (and more importantly improved skill and learning). Our only deadline is the end of a marking period. 

Here are three simple ways to implement a never-ending due date in your ELA classes to help strengthen your students' writing skills: 

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Provide feedback that kids can apply during class

I've written about my highlighting strategy before, but it has revolutionized the way I grade papers, saving me time and allowing my students the space to learn from their mistakes. 

When I grade student papers, I simply highlight their grammatical errors in one color and places where they need to revise in a second color. When students receive their papers covered in highlights, we spend a day in class unpacking the mistakes. Students review their mistakes, fixing what they can on their own and jotting down questions they have about other mistakes on a post-it. 

Through this process, my students came up with a simple system on their own. They have a printed copy of the highlighted text on their desk where they cross out the errors they fix as they fix them on a digital copy of their work (my students work on Chromebooks). Any errors they are unsure of, they circle. I answer questions about the circled errors when I conference with student groups.

Providing a day to review student writing after it's been graded is one of the most productive and meaningful ways to use class time. Students are able to learn from their mistakes, and learning is individualized (each student is working on improving a weakness unique to his or her writing).

Students cross off highlighted errors as they fix them independently. 

Students cross off highlighted errors as they fix them independently. 

Conference with students about their mistakes

As my students are unpacking their errors and making corrections, I ask them to hold any questions they have for me until I make it to their group to conference. During one 42 minute class, I make it through six group conferences of approximately four students per group. 

When I stop to work with a group, I simply ask them if there are any highlights that they are unsure of. Then, I teach the grammar rule that applies and give suggestions for a fix. Students often make the same mistakes throughout a paper, so after reviewing and fixing one error, they complete the rest of the revisions of that error type on their own.

There are usually one or two students in each group who do not need help dissecting their errors. Quite often, students know the rules and fixes but miss the error when revising and editing on their own. A simple highlight is enough to show some students that they need a comma here or that they used the wrong "there."

As students fix errors, they write questions on a post it. The teacher answers questions during conference time. This allows the teacher to work with every student without interruption.

As students fix errors, they write questions on a post it. The teacher answers questions during conference time. This allows the teacher to work with every student without interruption.

Use Google's "last edits" to regrade

Regrading students' work can be overwhelming, and often times as we are revising one writing piece, we've already started on our next writing. To save time, I ask students to use a rubric that I previously handed back to them and circle what they believe their new grade should be. They hand in their suggestions, and that's how I know to regrade their work.

When I regrade, I click on the last edits at the top of a student's Google Doc. In last edits, I can see the student's original work and any changes that he or she made. This allows me to zero in on the changes and improvements a student has made, and I don't have to regrade the whole paper. 

 Even after grading and regrading a student's paper, I still allow him or her to revise and edit a second or even a third time. Oftentimes, if a student has completed the in-class revisions and is still struggling to improve his or her own writing, I will meet with a student after school to reteach material to that student individually. 

Instead of seeing the same, exhausting mistakes all school year long, having a never-ending due date helps my students to learn how to fix their errors. Allowing my students a never-ending due date has made my students better at revising and editing and overall better writers.

About the Author

Emily is the founder of Read it. Write it. Learn it. where she designs secondary ELA curriculum and blogs about her teaching experiences.  She is also a collaborative blogger at

Teaching ELA to 7th grade students for the past 16 years has been one of Emily's greatest adventures. Her goal is to design curriculum that engages and motivates students to love reading and writing.  As a teacher, there is no better feeling than seeing students' eyes light up when they discover their passion for reading and writing.

When she's not in the classroom or writing curriculum and blog posts, Emily enjoys spending time with her three kids, three cats, and teacher husband. 


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