drafting · writing process

Taking Time to Reflect Leads to More Accurate Teaching Decisions

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?

6 thoughts on “Taking Time to Reflect Leads to More Accurate Teaching Decisions

  1. What I love about this post is the reminder of the value of watching closely and reflecting before making instructional decisions.
    My kids have shown me this week that we may need to allow ourselves some time to solidify some things we’ve been learning to do as writers. They are just on the edge of developing a level of comfort with what we’ve learned so far this year and seem to need a little time to try things, to refine things they have just started to take on, and to develop strong writing legs to carry themselves forward.


  2. My kids are showing me that they need more examples of how writers focus on what is most important. We talked today about how most of them are writing “around” their topic. I wish that there wasn’t this narrative writing assignment due for the first marking period hanging over our heads.

    And I can’t wait to receive your book! I need it! 🙂


  3. I am doing staff development tomorrow and I am going to begin with, “What have your writers taught you?” You’ve inspired me again, Ruth!


  4. We try to teach them the process and to love writing at the same time. To love their stories enough to want to revise it and make it better. They get excited to use strips, and tape, and that’s good! That’s what we want but using think alouds and mid workshop interruptions to teach that these things should be making my story BETTER! We are in the middle of publishing and some kids revised their beginnings or endings and rewrote them completely. Some even took new booklets to rewrite (without being told to).
    What kinds of books are your students using to plan their stories?
    We made a paper choice for those kids who didn’t want to sketch with just a little box to jot down important words of what the part of their small moment is going to be about.


  5. Thanks for the question: what needs are my writers showing me? Thanks for the tip: slow down, observe what is going on with the writers and think deeply about them.

    It sounds like you have acheived the major goal of creating a community of writers who all want to write. With this in place, skills can be taught and writers can grown into the next phase of writing development.

    As I reflect upon my own (Australian) Grade Two class, I realise that each writer has a different need. Some will be ready for the skill that i will model to them this week. For others the modelled skill will be a seed lying dormant until the young writer is ready to connect with the concept. My small-group skills focus will be good. Getting kids to talk to one another about their writing will be good.

    Question: do any of your students do their first draft on computer? Does this change the writing process that you have set up in your classroom?

    Thanks for your readable post.
    Brette Lockyer


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