Flash-Drafting Leads to Large-Scale Revision

How long do your students, typically, spend on drafting? A few days, right? If you’re like I was when I had my own classroom, then you know drafting could go on for a few days. It’s no wonder many students are hesitant to revise! When one invests a lot of time (e.g., four – five writing workshop periods) crafting something, they don’t want to make changes by seeing their writing again with fresh eyes.

Enter flash-drafting. If you have a copy of the TCRWP’s new units of study, then you’re familiar with this concept. If you are unfamiliar with it, then here’s what you need to know:

  • Flash-drafts are written in one writing workshop period.
  • Students write a draft “fast and furious” during independent writing time (~45 minutes).
  • Writers work to get all of their thoughts down on paper.  If they need to research more, they can make themselves a note, but they keep writing.
  • Kids use what they know about the genre when they are flash-drafting.
You can read more about flash drafts at Moving Writers.

I’ve been at the TCRWP’s June Writing Institute this week.  Kelly Boland Hohne has been my section leader for “Raise the Level of Literature-Based and Research-Based Argument Essays.” In the past week, I’ve written two flash drafts, one literary essay and one research-based essay. I have found the process scary and liberating all at once.  Here’s why.

Flash-drafting unnerved me because I’m used to taking my time with writing.  I tinker with words.  I play with punctuation.  I type, I cut, I paste, I cut some more, I copy, etc. I do this because I want to make make sure my thoughts are as succinct as they can possibly be. This week, I learned that flash-drafting doesn’t afford a writer with making it perfect.  That’s what revision is for!

My flash drafts and my initial revisions of my flash drafts were anything but perfect. Kelly encouraged us to use the learning progression, which you’ll find in the Pathways book, which comes with each grade level’s Unit of Study set, to do a Glow and Grow.  That is, after we flash-drafted, we looked at what we did well as writers and marked it “glow.”  Then, wherever we needed to improve our writing, we marked it “grow.”  (I marked mine up using Skitch so it would synch with my Evernote.)

Want to take a look at my flash drafts? Here are some links to the original ones, as well as my initial revisions.  PLEASE NOTE: Even though this will be published on 6/27, I’m writing it on 6/26 prior to completing the final draft of my essay for Kelly’s section.  

A page of my notes prior to taking a position on my research-based argument essay.

A page of my notes prior to taking a position on my research-based argument essay.

Seeing as I didn’t spend tons of time on my flash-drafts, I’m excited to revise because I know I need to. My flash-drafts weren’t my best work. (Heck, they were all written while I was riding on mass transit balancing my iPad on my lap!) Now that I’ve gone through the flash-drafting process twice this week, I understand how it can lead to more excitement about making large-scale revisions in response to what one learns next in writing workshop (or in my case, from my session leader, Kelly).

Do you have your students flash-drafting when you teach your units of study?  If so, please share a little more about the process with us by leaving a comment.