Teaching the writing process

When using a process approach to teaching writing, teachers focus on what students think and do as they write. Graves (1994) identified five stages of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing/sharing. Research has shown that writing process does not take place in a linear manner; rather, writing involves recurring cycles. The stages have been labeled as a way of identifying and discussing writing activities (Graves, 1994; Perl, 1994). Tompkins (2003) lists the key features of the writing process as follows:

Stage Writing Process
Stage 1: Prewriting
  • Students write on topics based on their own experiences.
  • Students engage in rehearsal activities before writing.
  • Students identify the audience for whom they will write.
  • Students identify the function of the writing activity.
  • Students choose an appropriate fore for their compositions based on audience and purpose.
Stage 2: Drafting
  • Students write a rough draft.
  • Students mark their writing as a rough draft.
  • Students emphasize content rather than mechanics.
Stage 3: Revising
  • Students reread their writing.
  • Students share their writing in writing groups.
  • Students participate constructively in discussion about classmates' writing.
  • Students make changes in their compositions to reflect the reactions and comments of both teacher and classmates.
Stage 4: Editing
  • Students proofread their own compositions.
  • Students help proofread classmates' compositions.
  • Students increasingly identify and correct their own mechanical errors.
  • Students meet with the teacher for a final editing.
Stage 5: Publishing
  • Students make the final copy of their writing, often using word processing.
  • Students publish their writing in an appropriate form.
  • Students share their finished writing with an appropriate audience.
  • Students sit in the author's chair to share their writing.


Often teachers who use a process approach to writing also use reading workshops in their classes; the two go hand-in-hand. The key element of both workshops is student choice; that is, students choose what they read and write. Often, these choices are within boundaries established by teachers. For example, students may choose to read books from an assigned genre and engage in a specified type of writing. Writing in writing workshops may be in response to literature. Writing workshops work best when there is a large block of time for students to write. Below are some suggestions for beginning a writing workshop in your classroom.

Some suggestions for procedural rules for writing workshops include:

try this For more ideas, check out these resources:

Writers' Window - 5-12 student resource for writing and publishing.

Wordsmithing 101 - Writing advice for young adults from author Nikki Grimes.

Pumpkin Patch - collaborative Internet project for lower primary students which showcases their poetry and graphics.


Effective writing teachers scaffold or support students writing by demonstrating effective practices, modeling writing, and guiding students through the stages of the writing process. Teachers provide the greatest amount of support when they demonstrate or model how proficient writers complete a writing assignment while students observe. (Modeling can be used for several purposes including: to demonstrate how to use writing strategies such as revising and editing, procedures for a new writing activity, and to show how writing conventions work.)

One effective modeling strategy is writing class collaborations in which the teacher acts as scribe and students provide words and sentences to complete the writing activity. For example, after reading Lois Lowry's The Giver a seventh grade teacher's class had several questions about the book. Rather than assigning all 32 students to write letters to the author, this teacher demonstrated letter writing by leading the class in composing one letter on the overhead projector. In this way, the teacher was modeling correct letter-writing format as well as all five stages of the writing process.

try this Do you know the five stages of the writing process? You can review the material you just learned with this Picture Perfect game.


try this Do you use writer's workshop in your classroom? Would you like to try this approach? Fill in the blanks to reveal some suggestions for implementing writer's workshop.


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