January 2010 Inspire!
Writing is a process that involves several distinct steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. It is important for a writer to work through each of the steps in order to ensure that he has produced a polished, complete piece. The writing process is not always linear. A writer may move back and forth between steps as needed. For example, while you are revising, you might have to return to the prewriting step to develop and expand your ideas.
Last month we learned about prewriting. Prewriting is anything you do before you write a draft of your document. It includes thinking, taking notes, talking to others, brainstorming, outlining, and gathering information. Although prewriting is the first activity you engage in, generating ideas is an activity that occurs throughout the writing process. During prewriting a writer will choose a manageable topic, identify a purpose and audience, draft a sentence that expresses the main idea of piece, gather information about the topic, and begin to organize the information. Examples of prewriting include brainstorming, freewriting, and questioning. Many people find it helpful to use a shape planner or graphic organizer to organize their thoughts during the prewriting process.
The second step of the writing process involves drafting. During drafting, the writer puts his ideas into complete thoughts, such as sentences and paragraphs. The writer organizes his ideas in a way that allows the reader to understand his message. He does this by focusing on which ideas or topics to include in the piece of writing. During drafting, the writer will compose an introduction to the piece and develop a conclusion for the material. At the end of this step of the writing process, the author will have completed a “rough draft.”
The process of drafting a piece of writing begins with an analysis of the prewriting. The author must use his prewriting notes to determine a focus for the piece. This may involve narrowing the focus of the topic and perhaps identifying a purpose for the piece.
For example, an author may decide to write an essay about dogs. He could have developed his prewriting notes with information about three topics relating to dogs: Show dogs, working dogs, and dog racing. These are all topics that could stand alone in an essay. During drafting, the author should choose just one of these topics for his piece of writing.
Once he has chosen a topic, he should identify a purpose for the essay. For instance, if the writing was meant to be informational, he might choose to write about working dogs, his purpose being to impart information. On the other hand, if he chose to write a persuasive essay, perhaps he would choose to write about dog racing, arguing for or against this controversial topic. After determining a purpose for a piece of writing, it is easy to begin drafting. Any information that is unrelated to the topic and its purpose should be eliminated from the prewriting.
The author begins writing by composing an introduction to the piece. The purpose of the introduction is not only to state the topic of the piece, but it should also draw the reader in to the piece of writing. For young children, the introduction may be one sentence stating the topic. More sophisticated writers will create an introductory paragraph that identifies the topic, sets the purpose for the writing, and suggests how the topic will be developed throughout the piece. The introduction to a piece of writing should be interesting. The tone of the introduction will vary according to the topic. If an author is writing a personal narrative, he might decide to begin with a creative quote about his experience. When writing an informational essay, the tone of the introduction must follow suit. It should be focused and informative.
A solid, interesting introduction sets the stage for the rest of the rough draft. An author should begin drafting the piece by organizing his notes in a sequence that will make sense to the reader. The focus should be on logical connections between topics. A young writer will compose the body of a piece of writing by including detail sentences related to the topic sentence. An older author should organize his writing in to paragraphs. Each paragraph should include its own topic sentence. Smooth transitions between paragraphs are important in creating a cohesive piece of writing, no matter the subject. A writer should refer back to his prewriting to keep him on track and ensure that the piece of writing maintains its focus.
A writer should complete a rough draft by composing a conclusion. The purpose of a conclusion is to wrap up the piece of writing by connecting all of the related thoughts and ideas. The best conclusions are creative, engaging, and leave few questions unanswered in the mind of the reader. Younger students can conclude a piece of writing with a simple sentence. Advanced writers should include a conclusion paragraph.
Upon completion of a rough draft, the writer should take on the first edit of his work. Editing is an on-going process, not a one time event. When an author edits his work, he is checking the piece for errors. These are typically errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and formatting (indenting of paragraphs, etc.). A writer should be encouraged to edit as much of his own paper as possible. Early writers should, with some prompting, be able to check a paper for correct capitalization and punctuation. As a child ages, he will be able to correct other errors on his own. Some students find it beneficial to read their work out loud while editing. This makes it easier to find mistakes. Editing should not be a negative process. This is a time to work on creating a polished piece of writing that will make the author proud. The author should be reminded that he will need to edit his work at least two more times. He will edit before composing a final copy and then use the same process to check over his final product.
The Importance of Modeling
Writing can be a difficult process for children. Many students are hesitant writers. Because of this, it is important for the home teacher to demonstrate appropriate writing strategies. When dealing with a child who does not enjoy writing, it is very important to model each step of the writing process.
The home teacher should plan to model a composition which parallels the one being written by the student. For example, if the child is writing on the topic “My Favorite Vacation,” the home teacher might choose to write his own composition at the same time as the child is writing, focused on a similar topic. This topic might be “My Favorite Weekend” or “My Favorite Holiday.”
The home teacher should plan to work through each step of the writing process with his student. The teacher should show the child, with his own topic, how to complete a prewriting exercise. He should then assist the student with this activity, moving through the process step by step, focused on the topic chosen by the student. A child does not instinctively understand how to take prewriting notes and convert them in to a piece of writing. The home teacher should model the procedure for this with his own topic. He should take the time to explain to the student how he chose to focus his composition, why he has chosen to include certain ideas instead of others, and how he plans to organize the piece of writing. The teacher should then encourage the student to verbalize his thought process and work together to assist the child with the assigned composition.
Writing is a flexible process. A confident author recognizes that there is always room for improvement and celebrates each step toward a finished piece of writing that he is proud of.
Next month, we will continue our series on writing by focusing on revision.