“Writing might be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a process, a rational series of decisions and steps that every writer makes and takes, no matter what the length, the deadline, even the genre.” – Donald Murray
Say what you will about Lucy Calkins – especially since her mass marketed writing program has been released. I hold firm to her (and my) foundational beliefs about the writing process. All children can be writers. We meet writers where they are, capture them with great literature, and inspire them to find the writer within.
The not fun part is when the writing process gets “put upon” students. It is presented as a series of “must do” steps just to feel that a piece is complete. It can be daunting and disheartening, especially to our youngest writers.
So how do we present these steps to our emerging readers and writers? I prefer to model the different phases of the process. You will not see a step by step guide to the process in my classroom. There is not a poster of the process as a cycle (which is my preference – a piece of writing can always be returned to if the writer chooses). I teach five and six year olds and the walls of our classroom are filled with anchor charts they have created. You may see a check list of things to remember. You may see rubric of what our “best work” should look like. But you will not see “THE WRITING PROCESS” laid out on our walls.
Throughout the year, we build on our writing. We begin with labeling, progress to simple sentences, and finally (hopefully) we write multiple sentences with details. We emphasize adding details – both to our drawings and our writing. We use graphic organizers (brainstorming), 4 squares (rough drafts), iPad apps and paper (publishing). We read our writing out loud – to a friend, to a teacher, to ourselves. We check our sight words with the word wall. We ask each other questions (editing/revising).
The last two weeks, we have been exploring the ocean and all it offers. My students this year are very interested in animals and habitats. We started a project this week that allows us to put two of our favorite things together – research and the iPad. Using the “plan” below, students began researching an ocean animal of their choice.
Students used library books, Pebble Go, Brainpop Jr, and other sources (each other) for research. I modeled adding information to the plan after reading or listening to research. We learn early on that copying every word from a book or the computer is a big NO NO. We learn that we must use words from our own heads, not another author’s words. If we write it, we need to be able to read it! Not to mention that whole plagiarism thing!
Once the plan was complete, they showed a teacher what they had. We had conferences about how to use the information in the best way. They could choose an app to make their project or actual paper. Many students chose to create a paper book about their animal. Either way, what they produced what meaningful to them – and they learned about the writing process along the way.
Here are some examples, still works in progress:
This student opted to leave his planning page in his book. He thought it would make a great table of contents!
These are writings that I know the students will return to again and again as they learn more. They have asked to not take them home yet – just in case! Wonderful authors in the making!