Implementing the Writing Process
About this Strategy Guide
This strategy guide explains the writing process and offers practical methods for applying it in your classroom to help students become proficient writers.
The writing process—prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, rewriting, publishing—mirrors the way proficient writers write. In using the writing process, your students will be able to break writing into manageable chunks and focus on producing quality material. The final stage, publishing, ensures that students have an audience. Students can even coach each other during various stages of the process for further emphasis on audience and greater collaboration during editing.
Studies show that students who learn the writing process score better on state writing tests than those who receive only specific instruction in the skills assessed on the test. This type of authentic writing produces lifelong learners and allows students to apply their writing skills to all subjects.
Success in writing greatly depends on a student’s attitude, motivation, and engagement. The writing process takes these elements into account by allowing students to plan their writing and create a publishable, final draft of their work of which they can be proud. It addresses students’ need for a real audience and to take the time to draft and redraft their work. You can help your students think carefully about each stage of their writing by guiding them through the writing process repeatedly throughout the year and across various content areas.
Strategy in Practice
The writing process involves teaching students to write in a variety of genres, encouraging creativity, and incorporating writing conventions. This process can be used in all areas of the curriculum and provides an excellent way to connect instruction with state writing standards.
The following are ways to implement each step of the writing process:
- Prewriting—This step involves brainstorming, considering purpose and goals for writing, using graphic organizers to connect ideas, and designing a coherent structure for a writing piece. For kindergarten students, scribbling and invented spelling are legitimate stages of writing development; the role of drawing as a prewriting tool becomes progressively less important as writers develop. Have young students engage in whole-class brainstorming to decide topics on which to write. For students in grades 3-5, have them brainstorm individually or in small groups with a specific prompt, such as, “Make a list of important people in your life,” for example. Online graphic organizers might help upper elementary students to organize their ideas for specific writing genres during the prewriting stage. Examples are the Essay Map, Notetaker, or Persuasion Map.
- Drafting—Have students work independently at this stage. Confer with students individually as they write, offering praise and suggestions while observing areas with which students might be struggling and which might warrant separate conference time or minilessons.
- Revising and Editing—Show students how to revise specific aspects of their writing to make it more coherent and clear during minilessons. You can model reading your own writing and do a think aloud about how you could add more details and make it clearer. Teach students to reread their own work more than once as they think about whether it really conveys what they want to their reader. Reading their work aloud to classmates and other adults helps them to understand what revisions are needed. Your ELLs will develop greater language proficiency as they collaborate with their peers when revising.
- Rewriting—Have students incorporate changes as they carefully write or type their final drafts.
- Publishing—Encourage students to publish their works in a variety of ways, such as a class book, bulletin board, letters to the editor, school newsletter, or website. The ReadWriteThink Printing Press tool is useful for creating newspapers, brochures, flyers and booklets. Having an authentic audience beyond the classroom gives student writing more importance and helps students to see a direct connection between their lives and their literacy development.
Rubrics help to make expectations and grading procedures clear, and provide a formative assessment to guide and improve your instruction. The Sample Writing Rubric, for example, can be used for upper elementary students.
As you work with your students to implement the writing process, they will begin to master writing and take it into all aspects of life.
Peer review, with clear guidelines for students to give feedback on each other’s work, motivates students, allows them to discuss their writing with their peers, and makes the work load a little lighter for you. The Peer Edit with Perfection! PowerPoint Tutorial is a useful tool to teach students how to peer review and edit.
You can also have students can edit their own work using a checklist, such as the Editing Checklist. Editing is when students have already revised content but need to correct mistakes in terms of spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and word choice.
Use minilessons, small-group lessons, or individual conferencing if necessary to make sure that students have made thoughtful changes to their writing content before moving on to the final draft.