Teaching the Writing Process by Writing With Your Students

Teaching the Writing Process by Writing With Your Students


Although I implement dozens of worksheets and tools when I create middle school lesson plans and high school lesson plans, I’ve found that writing alongside my students while teaching the writing process creates a happier atmosphere. I also feel that students learn more this way.

Why? Well, I think writing longhand – letters and correspondences – has largely been removed from our society. Students don’t see their parents write a rough draft to the insurance company or read over a letter to a friend. So when teachers ask students to embark on the writing process, they draw a blank. Students see adults sit at computers and type.

And nothing is wrong with that! Still, students need to approach writing a large paper differently than typing a quick email. Teachers can model this writing process with students.

Teaching writing is a complex process because so many ways exist to write – and every student needs a different one. For instance, I am a freestyler: I like to brainstorm a few ideas and then write a rough draft. I often then circle back to prewriting/brainstorming to better my ideas and in the process, write another rough draft.

It may seem like lots of extra work, but I find that I save time teaching and crafting student papers if I write their assignments with them. This gives them an example, and they can see that even a teacher does not simply sit down and write a paper – writing is lots of work!

I changed the way I taught writing. My students have grown because of it.

I know mine is not the process that works best for all my students, however. So when I start writing with a class, I encourage them to stick with the basic writing process:

1. Prewriting
2. Drafting
3. Revising/ Editing
4. Proofreading
5. Publishing

As a class and individuals grow, they start to stray from the process and loop back and forth until they get the desired outcome. I think allowing students this freedom as an English class continues throughout the year shows my trust in students’ developments.

What I strive to do for every writing assignment is write a paper with the students, following the writing process with them. I’ve had great success with that method.

1. Prewriting methods:

To begin, I provide an assortment of ways for students to prewrite. (I may be forgetting some that I use, and also feel free to add more ideas in the comments!)

  • Outline
  • List
  • Comparison/Contrast chart
  • Web graphic organizer
  • Problem/Solution chart
  • Sandwich/Hamburger chart (often used with my junior high students – high school kids don’t seem to care for this)
  • Multiple other graphic organizers

What I have found helps students the most is that I complete this activity with them. They see me struggle for ideas and come up with ideas that don’t connect well with my topic. They see me get frustrated when I have to mark out concepts and rearrange them. They watch me arrange my prewriting into different categories, which will become my different paragraphs. They learn that prewriting is messy, unorganized, and frustrating at points. I’m a big “bulleted list” person:

Prewriting with students.

This is my prewriting for a Thanksgiving writing project my students did (8th grade). Here I am brainstorming ideas for what I am thankful for.

2. Drafting methods: 

Students have even seen me change my mind about a topic and start over. Students have seen my excitement when I am onto a great idea. Students have seen my thought process as I prewrite.

I continue demonstrating my writing process with drafting. I show students how I long-hand, write out my rough draft. Some of my students prefer to type their rough drafts, and that is fine. (I assign students to complete every part of the writing process, but to personalize each section to fit their needs and personalities). I allow students to read mine while I read their drafts. (We trade). We discuss paragraph organization and transitions. We discuss what works and what doesn’t.

This shows them that no rough draft is perfect, it is a working draft. Mine has mistakes and I am open for discussing spots to improve. This also provides students an opportunity for practicing giving and receiving constructive feedback.

3. Revising methods:

Revising with students.

Students see me add, subtract, and rearrange ideas.

When I begin to revise, I often head back to my prewriting to be sure that I can’t better organize the paper. Sometimes I missed a point that I now see the perfect spot to insert. It also gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I want the overall message of the paper to be, and to see if I am hitting that mark. Then I type my paper, and yep, I sit right beside my students and type with them.

4.  Proofreading methods: 

Dependent upon the age group, time limits, and class attitude, I have students proofread in a variety of ways:

  • As a class, students develop criteria for proofreading. The large umbrella for criteria can focus on focus, support, organization, or conventions – all or some. This manner works well for struggling writers because then everyone can focus on one aspect. Classes who write well can focus on all of them. Students can check each other’s work and their own.
  • I provide a checklist for students. Students then check their own, a partner’s, or a group’s work.
  • We proofread as a class. This works well with a close-knit class, one that is willing to participate and share writing samples. Students volunteer sentences they need help reworking, or read a section of their papers that need reformed.

Again, I share with students ways that I proofread and model how I apply grammatical rules to situations.

5. Publication methods: 

For high school students, this typically includes printing and submitting. It can also include presenting part of the paper to practice speaking skills or turning some of the information into a power-point.

With my middle school students, I’ve found they really enjoy turning their writing into artistic endeavors. For instance, they can add pictures or graphics to a poster that help emphasize and explain their writing.

It may seem that your writing lesson plans will be extensive and create more work for the teacher. I’ve found the opposite. By modeling writing, revising, and the entire process with students, they understand expectations better. Their papers are of higher quality.

That is how I teach the writing process in my English – language arts classroom. Do you have any other tips to offer? Other ideas to incorporate with the writing process?

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