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 1: Prewriting||
|Stage 2: Drafting||
|Stage 3: Revising||
|Stage 4: Editing||
|Stage 5: Publishing||
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.
- Begin by teaching students the stages of the writing process. A class collaboration works well for this (see below).
- Establish procedures for how a writing workshop will run in your classroom.
- Anticipate topics for mini-lessons that you will teach during the workshop. Usually these are lessons on new writing skills or skills that students are misusing.
- Plan for how you will assess students' progress during writing workshop. Prepare checklists, organize schedules for observing students while they are writing (a few each day), and create grading rubrics with the class so that all understand how the writing they produce during writing workshops will be graded.
Some suggestions for procedural rules for writing workshops include:
- Students keep their writing in a designated place (e.g., in writing folders or a writer's notebook).
- Don't throw away anything! All drafts, jottings, drawings, etc. show process and will be included in the final assessment of written work.
- Every piece of writing or entry in a writer's notebook should be dated.
- All drafts should be written in pencil (if not completed on a word processor).
- Students should double space during drafting so that revisions are easier to make.
- Use different colored ink for revising and editing.
|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.
Do you know the five stages of the writing process? You can review the material you just learned with this Picture Perfect game.
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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