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writing process

writing process

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Published by: mfijor on Sep 25, 2008
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05/02/2013

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Margaret Trauernicht
margaret_trauernicht@mcgraw-hill.com
Steps of the Writing Process
Prewriting
a. Brainstorming is planning the story. It takes a large amount of time, and we should not rush students
through this step. Don\u2019t let students tell you they do all their planning in their heads.
b. Teachers must be directly involved in helping students choose possible topics. Students don\u2019t believe
anything interesting has ever happened to them, so they will whine about having nothing to write about.

c. Have students keep journals of ideas and add to the list daily. Assure them that even seemingly
insignificant things (planting a garden, jumping in a pile of leaves) often make the best stories. We must
value those stories as much (if not more) than the trip to Disney World or climbing Mt. Everest.

d. Write bullets or phrases, rather than complete sentences. Dump all your ideas on the paper\u2014the more
the better. Not everything has to go into the story. Don\u2019t worry about spelling.

e. Share student writing ideas with partners and the whole class. Writing is social, so sharing gets
everyone involved and excited. Most authors don\u2019t write in a vacuum, so encourage lots of discussion
and collaboration throughout the process.

f. A graphic organizer is helpful in organizing ideas in prewriting. Organizers vary by their usefulness to a
particular genre of writing.
g. Many students prefer to skip the prewriting step because they feel the pressure to \u201cjust get it done\u201d. A
well-thought-out plan makes it easier to write the piece.
Drafting

a. A draft is the first time sentences are written. We must dispel the idea that our first draft is also our
\u201cfinal\u201d draft. Many students have trouble getting started because they want it to be perfect. Remind
them it will be revised anyway, so it\u2019s important to get over their paralysis and get something down on

paper.
b. Encourage students to write on \u201cevery other line\u201d during their drafts to make revision easier.

c. Remind students during this step that our main concern iscontent. We don\u2019t want to be overly
concerned with grammar, spelling, and mechanics. This often causes students to choose words they can
spell easily rather than risk a more challenging and precise word they would have to look up.

d. Have students read their drafts aloud to themselves, their partner, parents, and anyone else interested.
They often see where changes need to be made by comments and suggestions given by others.

e. It is not recommended to give exact amounts that students must write (one page, 200 words, etc.) Even many of our best writers will do the minimum required and then stop. Through good prewriting by the student and conferencing with the teacher throughout the process, students will begin to focus on what they need to say to tell a good story and not meeting minimum standards of length.

Revising

a. To revise means to change something\u2014that\u2019s how we make it better. Many students insist they got it
perfect the first time and don\u2019t need to revise. Real authors are rarely satisfied and are constantly
revising to improve the writing. Many students confuse revising and editing and use this step to correct
spelling and mechanics errors. We are still focused on improving thecontent. Revision is the in-depth
and important step that takes our writing from good to spectacular!

b. We must be specific in teaching mini-lessons on how to revise. To simply tell students to make the
writing piece better or longer, is not adequate. Give something concrete students can to do improve their
writing: choose three more precise words, add two details, vary the order of two sentences in which you
began with the subject, add dialogue to your story, etc.

c. Having students highlight the changes made in their revision, make it easier when a teacher conferences with the student. Word changes are in yellow, details are in pink, dialogue in green, etc. It saves time when you want to just see where a student has added the changes taught in the mini-lesson.

d. Peer revision can be useful if students have seen the process modeled. They must be trained to make specific suggestions\u2014not just tell their peer the story is good or that he liked it. Students should write suggestions on post-it\u2019s rather than directly on a student\u2019s paper. A teacher can make this a part of a student\u2019s grade to very conscientiously look at and help another student improve his/her piece.

e. Students do not want to continually recopy their drafts. It\u2019s boring and unproductive. Use the concept of cutting and pasting that we do on a word processor. When students want to add more than there is room on the original paper, write it on a separate sheet. Cut the original where they intend to add the new section. Glue or paste it in the appropriate place. They have literally cut and pasted.

f. An important task for teachers is to ask lots of questions when conferencing. Many students are done quickly and want to skip right to the editing step. Teachers must dig to get the details that take writing to another level. Comments like, \u201cI\u2019m have trouble picturing your dog,\u201d or \u201cI\u2019d love to know what you were thinking when he did that\u201d.

Editing

a. Students need a comprehensive editing checklist for all spelling, grammar, and mechanics errors. It is recommended that each grade level determine what its expectations are, based on state standards. That can be built upon with each succeeding grade level. A checklist of these skills should be placed in the students\u2019 writing folders. Each student should check them off as they edit their work.

b. Have students keep a list of high frequency spelling words in alphabetical order in their writing folders. The number of words on the list will be determined by each grade level. Make students accountable for using this list, rather than asking the teacher.

c. Give help to students that want to use a more challenging word but aren\u2019t sure how to spell it. Ask the

student to attempt to spell it themselves first. Give them help with it rather than immediately telling
them to \u201clook it up\u201d. Most will just choose a simpler word than spend the time going to a dictionary.
d. Students prefer to have the teacher do all the editing of their work. Stop making students so dependent
on you. Mark an \u201cX\u201d in the margin outside the sentence where there is a mistake. It is up to the student
to find the error and make the correction. Have the student bring it to you and explain what the mistake

was and how it was corrected.

e. The level of editing will be determined by the capability of the student. If a student has dozens of errors,
it is probably better to focus on the most serious of these. It is too overwhelming for a student who
would need hours to make the paper perfect. Focus on the skills that should have been mastered by that
grade level. Expect students to continue to make steady improvement and not continue to make the
same mistakes. For many students, it is simply a bad habit of not wanting to go back to edit. The only
way to change that is to require students to take more responsibility for editing their own work.

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