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Draft More Than You Publish

You know how athletes practice more than they play in games? The same is true for writers, especially our student writers. They must write more than they publish. When I first started following the writing workshop philosophy, I had a misunderstanding about the writing process. I imagined that once kids “got on the tracks” they had to follow every draft with revision, editing, and finally publishing. Ugh!

Once I realized that after students finished a draft (and proclaimed, “I’m DONE!”) they can return to their notebooks to get another idea and then write another draft workshop became a happier (and more manageable) place. When working through a unit of study, I prefer students have several different drafts in their folders before they get on the road to publication.

As the publication date nears, I invite students to read through their drafts and select one worthy of publication. Revision and editing are hard work and necessary if we are going to share our writing with others. Sometimes, the reason we get such shoddy results when it comes to revision is kids, quite simply, DON’T CARE about the writing.

This week, I introduced this system in a couple of the classrooms I’ve been in. Students move their clips as they move through the writing process stages. Throughout the week I asked students to stay in the “top two circles” of the writing process. I soon learned many students thought they had to lock-step through the process. Through minilessons, conferring, and even a little hard nose insisting, I convinced students to write several new drafts over the course of the week.  Next week we’ll move From Draft to Publication (click on the link for a lesson & charts for teaching this process).

This kind of system makes it convenient to keep track of a classroom full of writers. As we were focusing on developing ideas and drafting, I made it a point to check-in with students who indicated they were editing. I also kept an eye on students who were gathering ideas for many days in a row.

What kind of system do you use in your classroom to track students as they work through the writing process?


writing process

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

5 thoughts on “Draft More Than You Publish Leave a comment

  1. I love this management tool. Although this original intent is to demonstrate what part of the writing process students are in, I give students a lot of choice when writing independently and sometimes find it challenging to check in on all of them. I can see this being an amazing way for me to see what students tried out on days when I am conferring or publishing. I think I will start with the actual options first, then move to the process breakdown for my little kinder-kiddos. Wow! I love getting excited about this stuff.


  2. The magnets work well too. That’s what I used to do in my middle school class. Each class had a different shape, so I could use the same system with all my blocks.

    The system in the picture was made by doubling butcher block paper, pasting the process circles on top, and then laminating it.

    Still with the clothes pins, it gets heavy. We have to use 3 “magnet men” to hold it up!


  3. I know some teachers who put magnetic tape on the back of small cards with students’ names on them to do the same thing.
    I used a class list chart and did a verbal status of the class at the start of workshop. Once taught, this routine took no more than 2 minutes, as I called names and kids responded with what they were working on that day. I had a written record of how long they spent with each part of the process and with each piece. I used it much like you do–to help me think about which students might need some nudging or were ready for some help.


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