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 drafting and editing. During drafting, the writer puts his or her ideas into complete thoughts by creating sentences and paragraphs, and then organizes them in a way that allows the reader to understand the core message. The writer does this by focusing on which ideas or topics to include in the piece of writing. During drafting, the writer composes an introduction to the piece and develops a conclusion for the material. By the end of this step of the writing process, the author will have completed a “rough draft.”
The third step of the writing process is revision. In this step, writers take another look at the work they have created by becoming the reader. In addition to identifying the parts of their writing that are good, and those that “speak” to the reader, writers also identify the places where their writing could be clearer or contain better word choices. As a final step in the revision process, the writer decides if there are parts of his or her work that can be eliminated.
The process of revision begins with an analysis of the “rough draft.” The writer uses a hard copy of his or her work during this step so that they can add carets, arrows, and asterisks, as well as cross out unnecessary words. The writer will return to the word processor when it is time to make the final copy and publish this piece of writing.
The writer reads the composition aloud. This allows him or her to hear the words and determine if the writing makes sense. The writer can also tell whether his or her piece of writing fulfills its purpose of being informative, descriptive, or persuasive. The writer checks to see if they are left with questions after they are finished.
After the writer reads the entire piece from beginning to end, he or she focuses on one small area at a time. The writer might check to see if the dialogue he/she has written is complete or if descriptions are strong. The writer may revisit the graphic organizer he or she used when prewriting if they find an area that needs more development. This is the time when he or she replaces tired words like “went” and “said” with words like “raced” and “whispered.” This is also the time when the author does a second check on the accuracy of any facts he or she has included. The writer may first refer to his or her note cards, and then check an encyclopedia or reference book for verification.
Also, if the writer used a rubric when drafting his piece, this is the time he will review the rubric to make sure that all the parts have been addressed. Sometimes during revision, the writer will change the order of his paragraphs and/or write a new introduction for his piece.
Even if the writer has already used the “spell check” feature of his word processing program, this is the time he checks the spelling a final time. A spelling program can only determine if the right letters are there; it cannot determine whether this is the word the writer intended. For example, does the writer want the word to, too, or two?
Finally, during the last step of the revision process, the writer checks to make sure that he/she has a conclusion that wraps up the piece. After the writer concludes his revision, the piece is read one final time. As needed, he/she returns to any part of the process that needs additional attention.
During revision, it is important for the learning guide to continue as the student’s partner in the writing process. The learning guide should model by explaining that during revision, the student will read aloud the composition and listen to the words as though the writer is the reader. The writer will listen to make sure that his words make sense. A writer will decide whether to add details to his/her composition, rearrange ideas, or say something differently. When revising, a writer might remove parts of his composition or replace some of the words used with better word choices.
When reading the student’s work, the learning guide should first tell the student about something that is liked in the composition. Next, the learning guide should ask a question that will help the student to focus on one item, for example missing information or items out of order. Lastly, the learning guide should give one suggestion for improvement that is age-appropriate and consistent with the student’s writing skills and level of confidence.
With a young child, the learning guide can help the student to check for a topic sentence and details for each of his or her paragraphs. With an older student, the learning guide can help the student to focus on the introduction, transitions, and conclusion.
Then the learning guide and student should reverse roles and the learning guide should invite the student to critique his or her work.
Points the learning guide may want to emphasize are that a good composition:
Next month, we will continue our series on writing by focusing on editing and publishing.