A pen and paper are a magical combination for creativity and imagination.
The draft happens after the brainstorm part is complete. It is important to stress that you simply cannot write the draft without the a proper brainstorm (or at least some sort of outline). While my students are initially reluctant towards the idea of brainstorming, they eventually see its benefit when using the brainstorm to draft a stronger piece of writing. Then, they use that draft during the next day to start the first draft, which is usually a writing lesson of anywhere from 30-45 minutes. As students progress in their writing and become skilled writers, I often assign the unfinished draft, including revising and editing, as homework.
As with any lesson, the writing lesson, specifically around drafting includes a set structure that works for me and the students. The following is a list of what I like to do in a writing a draft lesson:
1. Open the brainstorm: This can be a physical form or one projected on a screen. Get the students to look over the teacher's brainstorm. I will be using it to draft. I also remind them to take out their notebooks, pencils, menu, checklist, dictionary, and other relevant materials beforehand. All of this may seem like non-sense, but it so helpful to be clear about this each and every time. I often find some students missing one thing or another. However, if I remind them at the start of each lesson then it saves me and the student time later on.
2. Remind them about the graphic organizer: Allow them to search their own notebooks. They should have copied down the graphic organizer somewhere. Get students to call them out as a way to encourage participation in the classroom.
More specifically, I find providing a graphic organizer in the form of guiding questions really helps students focus on their writing work, especially when trying to think of what to write.
3. Remind them about the weekly and ongoing focus/goals: I ask them to remind me about each of the goals before we start. Here, each student has his/her own individual goal. We are not focusing on that. The lesson the teacher models is based on the goals for the whole class. It is important for us to work on these as we draft our work, in addition to the individual goals we have. You can read more about setting individual goals in the conference part.
4. Start the mini-lesson: This should be strong and based on two things: (1) the topic and (2) the weekly and ongoing focus/goal. This is the same thing we do in the brainstorm part. It sounds redundant, but consistency works for students. Although the mini-lesson is longer than the first three parts of this structure, it should not be too overwhelmingly lengthy. The majority of a writing block should be spent with students actually working on their own writing samples. That said, there are many ways to approach a mini-lesson. Shared writing, for example, is a commonly used approach, where students and the teacher work together to draft the words, sentences, or paragraphs in the mini-lesson. These approaches are mentioned in the following section.
5. Conference: Use the time students are provided for writing their own work to conference one-on-one and in small groups. This is a good way to revise with those who require revision or to provide new goals/focuses to students who have already mastered the ones that have been modelled in the lesson. Read more about conferencing here.
Reading Rockets and Education.com both explain that most children start to learn how to write by first scribbling and drawing. Children then go through several phases before developing a string of sentences. Regardless of where our students happen to be, teaching students how to draft is essential. The National Center for Education Evaluation (NCEE) suggests using the Model-Practice-Reflection approach for writing. Here, "Students observe a strategy in use, practice the strategy on their own, and evaluate their writing and use of the strategy" (NCEE, 2017, p. 6).
The Model-Practice-Reflect Cycle (NCEE, 2017)
Through this process, the teacher spends time modelling through mini lesson based on a specific focus (e.g. adding details) in mind. Then, the greatest part of the lesson should include students working on their own writing, where the teacher confers with students individually or in small groups. As a way to understand how to model a mini lesson for writing, the five approaches that are really helpful, which I have included here. They are as follows:
Guided Writing: According to Gibson (n.d.), "Guided writing lessons are temporary, small-group lessons teaching those strategies that a group of students most need to practice with immediate guidance from you. Guided writing lessons can be taught after a whole-class lesson once other students are actively engaged in independent writing." These are flexible groupings based on the needs of the classroom at the time (Gibson, n.d.). This is to provide students with support, focusing on a strategy or two that aims to improve their writing and allowing them to continue working on their goals.
Modelled Writing: Modelled writing is when the teacher thinks aloud and shows students what good writing looks like. In doing so, the teacher also models that proficient writers make mistakes and have to think about writing before putting their ideas on paper. Specifically, the focus of the writing lesson is a major aspect of developing sentences and paragraphs that are much more cohesive. How does a teacher go about selecting a focus for the lesson? Take the writing menu or any rubric that makes sense for you. Go through the rubric while going over writing samples from all different abilities and levels. This should provide a sense of what to focus on. For example, you may notice that most students understand how to write using new words, but they are not able to clearly share their experiences.
Independent Writing: As Davidson (2007) explains, "During independent writing, students are thought to produce their own written texts by drawing on knowledge and skills that have been taught during previous teacher [modelling] and guided practice" (p. 11). The work that students write through independent writing allow teachers to provide feedback, and it provides an opportunity for teachers to pinpoint a focused goal for each student.
Interactive Writing: Interactive writing is a process that involves both the students and the teacher in the writing. They share the pen and create a story together. As explained by Ontario Education in A Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, teachers often "decide to use interactive writing more often in Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes to motivate reluctant writers to write" (P. 53). As students are more comfortable with writing, teachers move towards shared writing. I have personally found interactive useful when students are still struggling to put together a sentence in a coherent manner.
Shared Writing: Shared writing is an excellent process whereby the teacher models how to write on a specific genre or topic while all the students are actively engaged in the process. In shared writing, the teacher is the scribe, but both the teacher and students provide in creating the writing piece. This is what makes it different from interactive writing where both the students and the teacher share the pencil. You can start by explaining the topic (e.g. meeting a dragon for the first time) and then writing, "Once upon a time..." and have students think of a story around that. Message Time Plus can be used as a technique on modelled and shared writing. It has been developed by the Children's Literacy Initiative that had been shared to us by Samini Hadi.
Davidson, C. (2007). Independent writing in current approaches to writing instruction: What have we overlooked? English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 6(1), p. 11-24.