Analysing student writing


Once the student has got a first draft of what they want to write down on paper, the question of editing arises. This demands great sensitivity on the part of the tutor, especially since the student may have taken a great deal of time over the task. The piece might be considerably improved if certain points were clarified or elaborated, if the sentences were arranged in a different order, if repetitive information were left out, if the spelling and punctuation were accurate and the layout correct.

  • If you ask your student to write something, even his or her name and address, you will be able to discover a lot of information about their needs, as well as their writing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Encourage your student to read back his or her writing to you.
  • In order to encourage confidence and self-diagnosis, always ask students where they themselves think they have difficulties before pointing them out.
  • It is very important that you respond positively to the piece, rather than seeking to identify all mistakes, and of prioritising the most important aspects of the writing to work on, rather than trying to ‘fix’ everything in one session.   


You might find it useful to ask these questions when studying a piece of writing:

  • Is it easy to follow the sequence of ideas?
  • Is the writer able to spell simple words? (for example from the ‘Dolch’ list, see reading section)
  • Does she or he have an understanding of sentence structure, verb tenses, capital letters and full stops?
  • Is the handwriting legible and or fluent?
  • Can the student self-correct? Is she or he aware of the type of mistakes that she or he is making, for example leaving out ‘s’ at the end of words, omitting endings such as ‘ed’ or ‘ing’?
  • Does she or he have a knowledge of letter sounds and their combination into letter strings and or patterns?