Today I found myself understanding the writing process more deeply. Primary writers work through the writing process by layering each phase on a single copy of their writing. They plan a story across pages, first touching each page and telling the story, then sketching. They draft by adding words to the pictures. They revise by going back to the same sketches and adding more, and then adding more words. They tape on lines if they need to add more to the story. They edit by making changes on the original work. They publish by adding a cover and coloring the original sketches.
As students gain more experience they write a draft which they then revise and edit. When they publish, they make a clean copy.
As I watched second graders today work on their self-designed W.I.P.s (works in progress), I noticed they were working through the writing process at sonic speed. They were cutting pages to make books the shape or size they envisioned. They were using markers to design fabulous covers. They were slapping down words, marking out to make revisions, and writing new ideas. They used the word wall to check spelling, and wrote the conventional spelling above the crossed out word.
There was energy in writing workshop today. Still, I found myself thinking, Woah, wait a minute! Slow down and write a best first draft. Then consider how you want to publish it.
Instead, I jotted my observations in my reflective practice journal. At first, I thought we needed to spend more time thinking about purpose and meaning. However, as I watched a little closer I realized the reason for the high level of energy was because they were engaged in meaningful writing projects.
What I came to realize is these writers have grown and need to learn how to write a best first draft. No one has ever shown them this concept.
Until now they have been the kind of writers who plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish all on the original copy of the writing project. They are showing us, though, that they are ready to grow into the kind of writers who write a best first draft.
I know this because:
- They are using their notebooks to plan their stories. They are ready for paper that will help them move their plan to a draft.
- When using paper with picture boxes they are forgoing the sketch and only using the lines to write the story. They are ready for paper without picture boxes.
- They have become fluent writers. It isn’t laborious for them to write several sentences across several pages. It won’t be a monumental task to write a crisp, clean copy for publication.
Once I slowed myself down, by writing my observations and then thinking deeply about them, I realized many of the writers in the room need to learn a more sophisticated way to draft a story. Tomorrow I have plans to teach them, and change their lives as writers.
I’m amazed how much our students teach us when we take the time to notice. So often the choices they are making are evidence of their growth. However, sometimes we are too rushed to notice. I know I often miss signs of growth because I push through with what I think students need. I’m glad I slowed myself down today. How about the writers in your classroom? What needs are they showing you?