What is the Writing Process?Posted In Writing | Posted By Kristy Robins
The writing process is a series of steps used to create a thoughtful and polished piece of writing. While the individual approach may vary from writer to writer, these steps lay the foundation for good writing for all types of compositions. Teaching the writing process to your homeschool students is vital to their success. As young writers begin to fully understand how to follow the process, they will build important skills enabling them to write with more confidence and independence. These skills will serve your students well throughout their education and remain useful to them when they become adults.
Writing Process Steps
Prewriting refers to the activities the student engages in as he or she is preparing to write the first draft. Depending on the age of the student and the nature of the assignment, prewriting activities may vary. The goal during this step is for students to narrow down their topic, gather ideas and information, and develop a writing plan. Some students want to rush past this part of the writing process or skip it altogether. Don’t let them! Learning to implement effective prewriting strategies is an important skill and crucial to their writing success, especially as they get older and encounter more complex writing tasks.
For many assignments, it is appropriate for students to begin by brainstorming. While brainstorming, students examine the prompt, consider their options for topics, and then narrow down to one topic. The approach to this step varies greatly depending on the nature of the assignment or writing task. Many students find it helpful to list as many ideas as they can. From there, the student can narrow down his or her three top ideas and, finally, choose one topic to focus on in the writing assignment. Once they’ve narrowed down to one topic, it’s a good idea for them to assess their topic by asking themselves the following questions:
- Does the topic fit the prompt?
- Is the topic narrow enough that it can be covered in the piece of writing?
- Do I know enough about the topic to develop it adequately in the piece of writing?
Once the students narrow down to a workable topic for the composition, they may need to do some research to gather information. In most cases, this will involve looking for books at the library and doing some searching on the internet. If the assignment is a formal research paper or the requirements include a bibliography, students may need reminders about writing down source information. For personal topics, the student may conduct some of the research by looking at photos or talking with family and friends about memories of past events.
Planning and Organizing
After brainstorming to arrive at a topic and gathering information through research, the students are ready to plan and organize their compositions. The main purpose of this step in the writing process is for the students to come up with a logical structure and sequence they will use to convey their ideas in the writing. It is not necessary for the students to write their plan in complete sentences. By the end of this step, students should have a summary of what will be discussed in each paragraph or section of their compositions.
At this stage, students may need support from the teacher. It would be appropriate for the teacher to provide the students with a graphic organizer to ensure that they are including all the required parts of the assignment (for example: intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion). As students become more independent, they may learn to create their own graphic organizers using bullet points or by drawing boxes on a page.
As they begin writing, students may decide to deviate somewhat from their writing plan, but it is still well worth the time spent. Having a plan will help the student stay focused and on-topic in the next step: drafting.
In this part of the writing process, students convert the ideas from their writing plan to a first draft of their composition. At this juncture, students should aim to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. That doesn’t mean they have to work in that order. Some students have better luck by starting with the body of the composition and then writing the introduction and conclusion. Students should try to include all the relevant details from their writing plan in sentence form. Remind students that the first draft, also called the rough draft, doesn’t have to be perfect. Any mechanical errors can be corrected later. If they say, “I don’t know what to write,” remind them to look at their writing plans.
When Students Get Stuck
While robust prewriting strategies are helpful, some students will inevitably hit a roadblock during the drafting phase. This can happen for a number of reasons, but with a little guidance and support, you can help them get past it. Here are a few ideas to try when you see your students staring at a blank page:
- Give students permission to silence the inner critic. Talk to them about the internal dialogue in their heads. If there is a voice telling them they can’t do it or that their writing must be “perfect,” you can remind them that they have the power to override that voice. You might have them repeat a short mantra such as, “I CAN do this,” or “It doesn’t have to be perfect,” when the inner critic rears its ugly head.
- Talk it out. Some students write better when they have the opportunity to work out their ideas orally. Let students tell you or another student about their ideas before they write them down.
- Ask questions. If students are having trouble developing certain sections of their draft, the teacher can look at their writing plan and ask them some questions to lead them to better development. When the student answers your questions, say something like, “Oooh, that’s good. Now write that down!”
- Give students a “wiggle break.” If you see a student has become very frustrated, it’s unlikely that he or she will be very productive in that state. Take the pressure off by suggesting an impromptu dance party or having them take a short walk. A bit of movement often helps the students release some anxiety and allows them to focus when they get back to work.
During the revising step of the writing process, students will look for ways to improve their first draft. It’s a good idea to wait a day or two after the first draft is complete. This way students can evaluate their work with a fresh perspective. Encourage students to read their work aloud to themselves or to a partner as they touch each word. This forces them to slow down and take notice of details that might have escaped them otherwise.
The teacher should provide some guidance about what kinds of things the student should be looking to revise. In most pieces, students will want to:
- Examine their content to be sure it’s relevant to the topic, well-organized, and developed in depth
- Improve word choice by replacing boring or overused words with more vivid adjectives and action verbs
- Check sentence construction to be sure that it is correct and includes a variety of structures and lengths
The type of composition dictates other areas on which to focus during this step. For instance, if the students are writing a personal narrative, they may want to focus on transition words that help the reader follow the action. They might also want to try adding dialogue to make the story more vivid to the reader.
Editing and Publishing Final Draft
After the student has finished revising, he or she is ready for the final stage of the writing process: editing and publishing the final draft. At this juncture, students should look for any issues that hinder the reader’s understanding of what they are trying to communicate as well as mechanical errors present in the writing. Depending on the age and ability of the students, they may require some support during this process including:
- Assistance with spelling
- Reminders of grammar, punctuation, and capitalization rules
- Help identifying problem areas that lack clarity
Once they have corrected their first drafts, they are ready to publish the final draft. This might mean handwriting it neatly on a clean sheet of paper or typing it using a word processor. In some cases, students may create a little book or glue their writing to a poster board. Younger students may want to add illustrations to their final product.
If possible, find opportunities for the student to share his or her work with an audience such as family, friends, or your homeschool co-op. This step will give the students a sense of accomplishment and honor their hard work.
Teaching and learning the writing process is hard work for homeschool teachers and students alike. For quality curriculum, including engaging video instruction, step-by-step modeling of the writing process, graphic organizers, and more, check out Essentials in Writing. Serving students in grades 1- 12, EIW will take the burden off the homeschool parent/teacher and help your homeschool students develop excellent writing skills that will prepare them for college and beyond.