The Writer’s Process: Expand the Possibilities of the Genres You Teach
My first interactions with something called, The Writing Process, involved a chart in the shape of a circle. We know this chart. It has words like planning, prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing drawn circularly, implying that one naturally leads to the next, and then it begins all over again. All of these labels, words associated with a writing process, can belong to any writer within any genre. A writer’s process (notice that apostrophe?) is more complicated than a simple path of steps to rinse and repeat. Does each of these elements live within a writer’s process? Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. The time spent within different parts is often determined by the comfort the writer feels within the subject. As writers voraciously draft, little else is happening. As writers draft, stop, reread, and rework there is planning and revising of thought all within a cycle that cannot be limited by time or steps.
Many would argue that someone going through the process of writing something always ends with a publication. Has anyone ever read a second or third edition of a text? I have. Those typically occur after publication and include revisions and edits to the original published piece, which reveals that the edges of a writer’s process are blurry. A writer working within these processes is learning to navigate toward clarity. Thinking evolves, and therefore a writer does too.
A writer’s process belongs to the writer. It cannot be devised or determined. It can be influenced. It cannot be prescribed or scripted. It can be observed. It cannot be taken or credited. It can be nurtured.
As teachers of young writers who are learning their process, we can provide experiences involved in uncovering their process. When we look at writers as creators, sculptors of meaning, painters of ideas, and blenders of knowledge, we realize every piece is created as unique as its creator.
So the question becomes, how do we influence, observe, and nurture?
To influence our writers to experiment with elements of writing they may feel less comfortable with, we can model and demonstrate what they look like. For students reluctant to revise, experimenting together within minilessons and active engagement of a writing workshop allows students to be influenced by the power of the elements the writing process offers. The image below shows a revision plan my students helped me create for a realistic fiction story I was writing. Making a plan for revision helped me to break apart different ways I could revise and then choose one to try.
Using process shares at the end of your writing workshop allows writers to influence each other. Initially, we can help writers name and share elements of their process with peers. As writers learn to identify their process within different genres, a writer’s process can be shared within partnership work with more independence.
As we watch and observe our student writers engage in their process, what we gather will help us guide writers toward the less natural parts of a writer’s process.
Asking students, “What are you working on as a writer today?” Then listening intently for keywords that match writing process elements will help us share our observations.
“I heard you say you are writing a lot of words today about the problem in your story. It sounds like you are drafting some middle parts of your fiction piece. What do you plan to do after you get all those ideas drafted?”
Below are three short videos of third-grade students sharing parts of their writing process within a realistic fiction unit.
Writers don’t always know how to accurately name the elements they use, so when we can point out words like drafting, revising, planning, it helps students become more aware and later more intent on using a process.
For me, nurture marries well with independence. If I am nurturing a student writer, I am honoring where they are and creating an environment for them to grow on their own.
As students begin to approximate, we can show them our noticings, “Wow, did you see what you did there?” Pointing our their milestones to create a sense of accomplishment that could otherwise go unnoticed. I find when I’m able to name and nurture my writers’ processes, they become more driven and intentional, repeating these writing behaviors independently.
What could be more rewarding than accomplishing something while doing it your own way? Allowing our writers to discover and value their own personal writing process encourages them to tackle it over and over again with more and more vulnerability, independence, and confidence.
Share your questions, practices, and comments below, and you will be entered in a giveaway for two resources that can further help you influence, observe, and nurture your writers in any genre you teach. Also, reach out through twitter, (@Betsy_writes) to continue the conversation and support each other as we support our writers.
- This giveaway is for a copy of each of the following books: Craft and Process Studies: Units that Provide Writers with Choice of Genre by Matt Glover and Focus Lessons: How Photography Enhances the Teaching of Writing by Ralph Fletcher. Thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)
- For a chance to win this copy of Craft and Process Studies and Focus Lessons, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, February 9th, at 6:00 p.m. EST. Betsy Hubbard will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number and announce the name in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, February 10th.
- Please leave a valid email address when you post your comment so Betsy can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your email address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only.)
- If you are the winner of the book, Betsy will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – EXPAND THE POSSIBILITIES. Please respond to her email with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.