Here’s a PowerPoint I wrote for Happiness.org — and also for my writing class. It takes students through the basic writing process, from prewriting through editing.
- Class discussion is often the best way to start. Many people find that their ideas get clearer as they talk about things, and sharing ideas can be very inspiring.
- Graphic organizers are a great way for individual students to brainstorm, and they can help focus a small group or class, too. Mindmapping is a favorite.
- Writing prompts, such as the quotes and questions in the PowerPoint above, can be a more focused beginning to prewriting. To keep the process more open-ended while getting past the “I have no ideas” problem, assign a specific reading, video, or other text to the students. My class of older teens watched a sketch from Mitch and Webb and a drug ad parody when we were looking at the messages ads give about happiness. We analyzed the videos for main point and support, and then students chose their own ads to analyze.
- In general, I like to let students write on their own. However, many teachers like to give in class writing time, especially for younger students.
- Group writing of a sentence or paragraph can be eye-opening for students. I like to ask my students to write a sentence beginning with “The man sat at a desk.” I encourage them to add enough detail to that one sentence to let a reader know a lot about the man. “Bart sat at his glossy teak desk, looking out over the rooftops of the city till his assistant arrived with a china cup of coffee — just the way he liked it, French Roast with fresh cream” is completely different from “The boy bent his tousled head over the scarred plastic top of the cast-off desk.”
- Group editing practice can be great. Project a paper on the screen or smart board and act as a scribe for the students’ suggestions, post a paper in Google Docs and assign each paragraph to a pair or small group of students to edit, or put students in groups of three or four to work on their own papers together.
- Give students a very specific editing assignment. Last term, we joined with an art class to create a website for a local charity. My writing students were amazed to see that the charity really didn’t have a main point, and were challenged not only to identify one for them, but also to express it clearly in the small amount of space the art class gave us. Another semester, we worked on letters to the editor from our local newspaper, which we receive through the Newspapers in Education program. Working on these narrowly focused tasks helped students apply what we were learning to their research papers when the time came.
TCR has a Writing Process Bulletin Board Display Set that can fit nicely on a small board, or go with student work on a larger one.
Portfolios and online document collections are other good ways to show student work through the process. Looking back on all the stages can be gratifying for the students and make clear the value of paying attention to all the stages in the process.