The Writing Process

The ‘Process’ approach to writing enables children:

  • develop the craft of writing and the ability to communicate and express their ideas
  • discover their own voice/style through daily workshop experiences
  • acquire the mechanics of writing i.e. spelling, grammar, punctuation, handwriting in the context of their own writing as they demonstrate a readiness for the skill
  • develop self-esteem/confidence in themselves through daily conferencing, sharing and publishing .

Steps in the Process

Notes for the Teacher

Choice of Topic:

 
  • Children are invited to choose their own topics to write about. They choose a genre in which to write e.g. personal narrative, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and think about their intended audience for the written piece.
  • Initially, the Teacher demonstrates where writing comes from; how to choose topics; provides help to those students who have difficulty starting.
  • Teacher provides time for children to write daily for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-Writing Activities:

 
  • Discussing e.g. pairs, small group.
  • Researching e.g. a fictional piece set in 1916 would require background on the history of the time to make the story authentic.
  • Scribbling/Drawing: some children begin their writing session by drawing, which may suggest possible plots/characters.
  • Note-taking e.g. for a non-fiction piece.
  • Interviewing.
  • Each child approaches writing in an individual way. Some children do not require any pre-writing activity to help them get started, they come up with an idea and begin their first draft straightaway. Others need to spend some time doing one of the rehearsal activities: the nature of the activity is determined by the need of the writer.

First Draft:

 
  • Children begin writing on their chosen topic.
  • They are urged to write rapidly, change nothing, and allow all ideas in. The goal is to capture on paper all of their initial thoughts/reactions/flights of fancy without stopping to worry about the ‘mechanics’.
  • If children are unable to spell a word they are asked to write how they think it is spelled and mark it with an* for checking later.
  • Teacher circulates around the room and conducts ‘roving’ conferences with individual children as they are engaged in the process of writing. Successful conferences consist of 80% child talk and 20% teacher talk. The teacher’s role is to listen carefully; nudge details out of children; to question the writer, with the emphasis always on what the writer is trying to say.

Revision/Redrafting:

 
  • After the initial flurry of words are down on paper children are taught to stand back from the writing and to look at it critically: do the words convey my ideas? What parts of my piece are strong/need to be reworked/are unclear.
  • Children may conference in pairs /small groups/with the teacher.
  • Armed with the suggestions from the conference the children redraft the piece. The amount of redrafting a child does varies according to their age and their stage as writers.

Revision can be facilitated in a number of ways:

  • Teacher demonstrates how to revise by modelling revision of his/her own writing through thinking aloud and making the revisions on an overhead. In this way children see first hand how writers make decisions.
  • Children can work in pairs/small groups to read each other’s work. They must first be taught how to respond constructively to a piece of writing.
  • Through daily whole class mini-lessons teacher focuses on techniques that authors use by reading aloud quality children’s literature which contains the technique e.g. simile/metaphor. Children are encouraged to use the technique in their own writing.

Proof-reading:

 
  • When the child is happy with the content of a piece he proofs it for errors in punctuation, grammar and spelling. It is helpful to do this daily at the end of the each writing session.
  • The emphasis is on self –correction. The children will gradually improve their ability in this area when a consistent/systematic approach is taken and strategies are taught in context.
  • Children can also collaborate in pairs/groups.
  • Teacher demonstrates how to proof-read by modelling the process on the blackboard or overhead.
  • Teacher teaches children strategies that will help them self-correct.
  • Teacher takes note of the errors that children are making and conducts small group skill sessions when children demonstrate a need for the skill. Thus skills are taught in context not in isolation.

Post-writing:

 
  • Sharing: At the end of the writing session children are given the opportunity to share their writing with the whole class. This is always voluntary. They may share in a variety of ways: the whole piece; the opening paragraph; the ending; a new character; a favourite/sad/funny part etc….
  • Publishing: At the end of a fortnight/month children look through all of the pieces they have written and select a piece to publish in the classroom. Pieces may be: rewritten in best handwriting and mounted on coloured card and displayed in the classroom or pieces may be typed, illustrated and bound and placed in the classroom library.

  • Teacher provides a framework for a quality share session by modelling interesting questions and appropriate responses. Children are trained to be effective listeners.
  • Teacher demonstrates methods of book binding, illustrating and presenting work.
  • Teacher provides silent reading time in class to enable children to read quality children’s literature and their classmates’ work and to respond to it.
  • Teacher responds to children’s writing daily by reading it and placing a remark on it.
  • Teacher provides an alternative audience for children’s work by e.g. facilitating visits to other classes within the school where children can give a ‘polished’ performance of their piece.