Writing is a Process
Does your homeschool become a battlefield each time you assign a writing project? Helping your child understand that writing is a process can diffuse some of the tension and produce better results.
I teach students to follow the Five-Step Process outlined below. I also require them turn in all of their drafts, with the final, “published” copy on top. Turning in all the drafts adds validity to the steps. If the child thinks the only copy I’m interested in is the final one, then he rushes to get to that final copy. If I can help him see the importance of each step, then he is less likely to want to skip them. Skipping steps results in poor quality writing.
Step 1. Prewriting: Plan, research, discuss and organize ideas.
Sometimes children are reluctant writers, not because they have nothing to say, but because their fingers get tired before the paragraph is finished–and then there is all that re-writing to do. Prewriting lessens the amount of rewriting. Encourage your child to jot down notes (not complete sentences) so he can remember his ideas and accurately record the research. Discussion helps clarify ideas, so engage your student in dialogue before he begins researching the topic and again after the research is completed. Discussions help provide direction and organize thoughts. This aspect of writing cannot be over-emphasized.
Step 2. Writing: Put ideas on paper; expand and clarify.
Composing an effective essay, or even a paragraph, requires both sides of the brain. However, the part of our brain interested in details fights against the part of our brain interested in creativity. During the first writing session, tell the “detail” brain to take a nap, go out to recess, get lost–whatever it takes to turn it off. Details stifle creativity. During this step, the student writes without paying attention to spelling, word usage or mechanics of any kind. It is important to get his ideas on paper, so his creative brain gets full reign. Again, this cannot be over-emphasized. This step involves putting ideas on paper and nothing else.
Step 3. Revising: Look at work with a critical eye for style and content.
This step still involves the creative brain; therefore, the student is not looking for spelling, grammar or usage errors. He is checking to see if his ideas are presented in a logical order, if the paper flows well, if he has fully illustrated his points or if there are ideas that need clarified. He might re-word his first sentence making sure it grabs readers’ attention or rewrite crucial transition sentences. He consults a thesaurus for best word choices and rewrites wordy, inconcise sentences. Here is another place where a discussion can help flesh out problems.
Step 4. Proofreading: Check work for mechanics and usage errors.
Finally, that detailed part of the brain gets its turn. Look critically for grammar, word usage and spelling errors. Read the essay out loud to help uncover incomplete sentences, missing words, poor grammar, etc.
Step 5. Publishing: The final, polished copy.
For an elementary school writer, this means copied in their best handwriting, skipping a line between writing. For an older student, this means type-written, double-spaced, size 12 font. If an older student has been doing all his work on a computer, then he should do a “save as” for each draft. The essay or paragraph is turned in with the final “published” copy on top followed by the previous drafts.
If this Five-Step approach is followed for every writing assignment, it can eliminate the idea that quality writing is done in one step. It can set the child up for success and help instill pride in producing a final copy worthy of the effort expended.