The writing process is truly a process. Each step is important to help your students grow as writers. However, teacher training and degree programs often do not break down how to teach writing, or what the steps of the process might realistically look like in the classroom. We are thrown into the classroom and must figure it out. If we are lucky, we may have a mentor teacher or teaching team that is supportive and helpful.
Drafting is probably students’ favorite part of any writing project because they get to write what they think without worrying about making it perfect. Also, in their minds, they are completing the writing assignment and it “will be done” when they finish. Though we are going to talk about your students writing the draft, first make sure you have them prewrite.
Prewriting is the first step of the writing process that sets up the rest of a writing project for success. If you would love to learn more about prewriting strategies, I highly recommend you check out my article 13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing. Prewriting is a key step, but also a step that students think is boring, so they want to skip it. Don’t let them skip it because it’s important for them to learn how to utilize it so they will grow as writers.
My Favorite Writing the Draft Activity
In my 6th grade classroom, I loved to use picture prompts to get my students to write. They would look at a prompt of something like a zipper opening a street or an empty street with shoes. It provided inspiration for them to dive deep into creativity. In this assignment, they would look at the picture, brainstorm for 5 minutes and then write for 15 minutes at the beginning of the year. The time would increase as the year progressed.
Writing the Draft Focused on Creativity and Creation
Drafting is not meant to produce a perfect piece of writing. I often forget that myself. The goal is for students to write, be creative, explore their idea, and start to put them in some sort of order. The great thing about drafting is that the piece of writing is not done. It’s just the beginning of trying to create a writing project that will be amazing. I am guilty of forgetting to teach this to my students. We are pushed to create writers that can pass tests, but I want to teach my students to love writing from beginning to end.
What is Writing the Draft?
Drafting is the second step of the writing process and when the writer writes with a free train of thought shaping their planned idea into words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Writers write a first draft and many drafts to follow until their message is clear and words are just the way they want them. By the time the first draft is done the big picture of the writing idea is usually laid out, but not always. Sometimes after drafting writers need to go back and rethink their topic, point of view, or goal and start again.
When students write a draft they should get their words down quickly following their outline or other prewriting strategies. Then students need to figure out where to end their idea. Finally, students should be sure that their message is clear and the impact they want to have with their writing is powerful.
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Writing the Draft
Drafting is not talked about much and is talked about a lot all at the same time. Everyone knows what drafting is, but there’s not a lot of well-known tips and tricks for explaining it. It’s amazing how vital it is the writing process, but how little about it concretely taught. Here you will learn the benefits of drafting, what students should do before they start, how to draft, and tips that will make student drafting easier and more successful.
What is the Importance of Writing a Draft?
- Drafting Shapes and Organizes the Writers’ Ideas
Once a writer starts and completes their first draft their writing has truly started to take a shape. By writing without trying to correct anything our original idea starts to flow in the natural order of what we think as we write. Sometimes what we plan to write takes a new and interesting twist as we get started. Writing the first draft, knowing that it is going to change, helps to determine where our writing should go and what order it might occur in.
- Drafting Creates Writing to Revise
There have been many students who sit quietly at their desks, hoping you don’t notice they are just sitting there. It’s those students who have a blank page that can’t become better writers, or revise their work to something better. Writers must have a draft to revise and create something impactful and interesting. It’s much easier to write a draft knowing it should be full of mistakes. It gives us something to improve upon.
- Drafting Let’s Creativity Flow
Drafting is a chance for writers to write uninhibited. Writing the draft should be a chance to explore creativity and ideas without corrections. Revising, editing, and refining writing comes after writing the draft is done.
- Drafting Gives Valuable Writing Practice
Writing stamina and writing muscles are a real thing. The more our students write the better they will get at it. The more drafts our students write the better their final paper will be. It’s like if you committed to doing 100 pushups a day. At first, you might be doing 5 at a time, but after a year you might be able to do them all at once because you got stronger. The more our students write the strong they will become. Writing will get easier and better with each draft.
- Drafts Show Progress
Students can look back at the first draft of a paper they write and see how much their work has improved. They can also look at their drafts from the beginning of the school year and see how much better their drafts have gotten over the course of the year. It’s a great activity to show your students how they’ve improved as writers. This is something that we may need to set a reminder on our phones to help us to remember to do throughout the year.
I never thought I would be a semi-professional writer putting out blogs weekly, but I am. I can also say that I have grown leaps and bounds by writing regularly. If you take a look back at some of my first blogs from January 2021 you will be astonished how bad they were compared to my newer articles. We can also benefit and grow from drafting more.
What Students Should Do Before Writing the Draft
- Purpose or Goal of Writing the Draft
Usually, the teacher determines the purpose (sometimes called the goal) of writing. Often times we ask our students to write a persuasive piece that will convince us of one thing or another. Or we tell our students that they will write an informational piece about tidepool animals. Maybe their goal is to share a sensory detailed story about a vacation or special moment. It’s important that students understand that this is the purpose or goal of their writing, but usually, it is teacher-provided.
- Identify the Audience before Writing the Draft
It’s important for writers to identify their audience before they start writing. Who our students write for should change the tone and word choice of their writing. If they are writing for second graders their writing will be simple. If they are writing for high schoolers it’s going to be more complex. The age and interests of their audience matter. It will determine their word choice and help them know if they should explain any parts further.
- Writing the Draft Topic
Writers can use their completed strategies for prewriting to help them narrow down their topic to a manageable size and focus. A topic like the ocean is far too vast, but as students worked through their strategies for prewriting they should have continuously narrowed their focus to a final topic that is manageable. If you need prewriting strategies read my article, 13 Strategies for Prewriting to Help Your Students Efficiently Produce Writing.
- Eliminate Unnecessary Information Before Writing the Draft
After students have determined all of the above it’s time to take another look at their prewriting and eliminate unnecessary information. By eliminating this unnecessary information their writing will be more focused and it will be easier for them to use an uncluttered prewriting paper.
How to Write a First Draft
- Keep their Outline Visible
If your student successfully completed their prewriting strategies they should have some sort of outline. While students are writing their draft they should have their outline visible. Their outline could be on paper, printed from the computer, put on a split-screen, or being typed in and expanded.
- Follow the Outline
Following a well-planned outline can help the drafting process along because your students won’t get stuck very often. Students will find it’s nice to look at a quick note to look at to keep their writing on track.
- Write Complete Thoughts Without Correcting
Students should use complete sentences while they are writing their draft and try to make their thoughts as clear and well thought out as possible. But students should not revise or edit as they go, especially in the first draft.
- Move On
If students get stuck while they are writing their first draft then they should mark it quickly leave a little room and move on to the next paragraph. There is no reason to spend time being stuck. It’s better to leave a space and move on to say what they know they want to say.
- Finish Writing the Draft
Students should have one goal with their first draft. They should be sure they get it done from beginning to end and that it reflects the overall message they want to share. It’s not going to be perfect and there will be many revisions, but the first draft is just that a first draft. If students have something on their page then they can revise and edit it in their next steps.
Writing the Draft Success Tips
This is a complication of the many success tips from various blogs and my own experience. There is no particular order to these tips.
Do Not Revise While Drafting
Do not edit, revise, or proofread while drafting. Students should focus on organization, big picture elements, a strong point of view, character motivation, and details. Not all of these will happen in the first draft, but if your students can manage one or two the rest can be taken care of during revision. These pieces don’t even have to make sense yet, but if they are in the draft they can be refined with revisions.
Write Out of Order
It is not necessary to write a draft from beginning to end. Sometimes it’s easier to start with the body paragraphs and then go back to the beginning. It’s okay to skip hard parts and go back to write them later. It’s easiest to start with the part the writer knows the most about.
Daily Writing Time
Professional writers plan time to write every day. They are professionals who have refined their craft and are getting paid to do it. It stands to reason that our students who are still working on their writing skills need to do the same. We should plan to have our students write every day or as close as we can get to it.
Students should have a plan for their writing time and deadlines. Younger students often get this plan from their teachers. We tell our students they need to complete such and such part by a given date. However, we also need to teach our students to start to make a plan of deadlines so that as they reach high school they do not need to pull all-nighters. It’s one more way we can support the long-term growth of our students.
Schools are recognizing the value of breaks more and more. Writing breaks are a valuable tool to help students take a step back from their writing to make sure they are still focused on the purpose and message of their writing.
Point of View
Make sure your students understand the point of view they are writing from. Point of view can mean first or third person, but it can also be the side of the argument they are writing for. It should be clear to the reader through the entire piece of writing.
The Writing Process is Not Linear
Keep in mind the writing process is not linear, a writer cannot always simply complete each step one time. Sometimes a writer needs to move back and forth between steps. Going back to prewriting to check for clarity and focus on their main idea or message may help produce the best writing.
Writing the Draft Is Complex
Drafting is a far more complicated process than I was ever taught in school as a student or when I was learning to be a teacher. There are so many steps to writing a successful draft that is going to be easier to revise. The part I wished my teachers had spent more time on was teaching me to share a clear message in my draft rather than worry about it being perfect.
Each student who enters our classrooms is going to need help with different aspects of drafting, even the students who are good writers. Breaking down drafting into more steps with more scaffolding to help your students grow as writers.
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Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry
I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing. Here is an entire lesson for FREE. My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets make this the perfect lesson for your classroom.