What’s Your Process?

Do you remember teaching the 5-Step Writing Process?  At our school, kids would sometimes move their clip on a poster to indicate their current step.  Clips would move linearly down the poster: prewrite, draft, revise, edit, and then publish.  In other classrooms, everyone would prewrite on Monday, everyone would draft on Tuesday,everyone would revise on Wednesday…

Today, we know writing is a recursive, sometimes messy process, and we know it varies from writer to writer. We all approach the task of writing differently. There is no “one writing process.” As we enter into our final quarter of the school year, I thought we should begin reflecting on our lives as writers. To start, we would reflect on our own process. I sat with a group of 6th graders, and we talked about what the process looks like for each of us. Here is what I told a group of 6th graders about my own process:

Here is a transcript: I find that a lot of my drafting actually takes place in my head.  Once I have an idea, I spend a long time just envisioning the final product.  I think about what I’m writing in the shower and when I’m driving and when I’m eating lunch.  I think about the actual words I will write, how will I start, what the title will be, what kind of structure I might use.  I  guess I kind of write it in my head.  Then, when I have time to do the actual writing, I just open up a blank page on my computer and start typing.  This part, the writing part, is actually rather easy for me because I already have a really good idea what I want to say. So, for me, I feel like I have two drafting processes: an internal and an external.  I do a whole bunch of revising while I draft on the computer – I backspace, delete, and add words while I’m typing.  This feels like drafting and revising simultaneously.  After I type the whole piece, I usually walk away from it for a while.  I feel like I need some space in between the draft and the big revision, like I need to look at it later with fresh eyes.  I’ll come back to the piece later that day or the next and reread it.  Here, I’ll make some major revisions and edit – all at one time.  I’ll look for grammatical or spelling errors.  I’ll correct sentence structure that doesn’t sound right.  I usually read it aloud to myself at this point, and that is when I might take out a sentence or add a few words or sometimes even rewrite whole paragraphs.  Depending on the piece, I might have my husband help me edit and revise at this time. Right up until the time I hit publish, I’ll hop in and out of the document and tweak it until the deadline comes.  If I didn’t have a deadline, I think I might live in a constant state of revision.  It’s very rare that I ever feel completely done.  

If I were going to represent my process graphically, it might look like this:

Notice how revision is prominent through my whole process.

Notice how revision is prominent through my whole process.

Then, the 6th graders did some thinking about their own writing process.  Some sketched it out in their writer’s notebooks:
Notice how Shayna has a step in between idea and draft where she prefers to talk to another writer.

Notice how Shayna has a step in between idea and draft where she prefers to talk to another writer.

Notice how Karina's process consists of short periods of drafting, followed by revision and editing.

Notice how Karina’s process consists of short periods of drafting, followed by revision and editing.

 

Other students explained their writing process to a friend.

By sharing our writing process with others, we recognize that we all approach the task of writing differently.  We articulate and embrace who we are becoming as writers.
**(After this lesson, I realized that I did not include any thinking about how my writer’s notebook fits into my writing process.  I should have articulated the role of my notebook and thought aloud for the kids about how writing in a digital format has changed my use of my writer’s notebook.  I am looking forward to this follow-up conversation.)**