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The Writing Process

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What is the writing process?

The writing process teaches students to internalize the steps for producing a finished piece of writing and should entail the recursive phrases of pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. When students internalize the process approach, they are prepared to produce logical and well written documents which convey an appropriate message for a specific audience in personal, academic, and professional contexts.

All stages in the writing process may be condensed in a timed writing, but they are addressed, even briefly. Internalizing the writing process helps students improve “on demand” or timed essay performance. In a professional environment the same steps in the writing process should be employed for presentations and even emails. In scientific and technical contexts, where the purpose for writing may not be production within a limited time frame but rather ease of replication, working through the writing process is still a valuable exercise. Learning, implementing, and internalizing the writing process helps students to produce effective writing for a variety of purposes including writings that may not proceed through the full writing process.

The writing process compared to the building of a house:

House outline

An architect and a
homeowner discuss
what sort of house
is desired.


How might a teacher illustrate the writing process with students?
Students may be able to understand the value of each stage of the writing process if it is compared to more familiar activities, such as drawing one’s home or making a lunch.  It is important for students to understand that while all writing assignments may not formally progress through each stage of the writing process, to become a better writer, students must practice each stage.

The pre-writing stage helps expand or narrow focus, and identify and/or organize ideas. It is the planning phrase of the writing process. The Idea and Organization Traits are important in the prewriting phrase as the writer considers narrowing or expanding the writing focus and selects an organizational structure that will most effectively showcase the student’s ideas.

Students having difficulties with Pre-Writing may benefit from

  • quick writes
  • free-writing and writing workshops (narrative)
  • keeping journals or learning logs
  • multi-sensory museum boxes or station activities (informative/explanatory)
  • role-playing or dramatization activities (argument)
  • outlining the form, audience, topic, and purpose [FAT P]
  • concept mapping software, such as Inspiration

Pre-Writing Resources:

House outline with trees

An architect draws the designs for a house to communicate with the owner and the builder. A builder lays the foundation and creates the frame (structure) of the house according to the architect's plan and with respect to code.

Drafting : This stage involves the students in organizing ideas into a coherent structure. The goal of drafting is to translate ideas into written organization without being constrained by word choice, sentence structure, conventions, and presentation. Models of exemplar writing help students build a visual map in order to draft their ideas according to specifications. Informal conferences with teachers or peers can occur during this phase to provide feedback to the writer.

Students struggling with Drafting may benefit from
  • storyboards, planning guides or other graphic organizers
  • collaborative drafting (teacher and student, small group)
  • chunking instruction time
  • audio recording software, such as Audacity
  • text recognition software, such as Kurzweil 3000 or Dragon Naturally Speaking

House with color

The builder makes changes to the house plans as needed. A roof is added and all other fundamental parts of a home—plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. are added to the structure.

Revising: This stage focuses on improving student writing. Students rethink, rework, and refine their writing. Students apply their knowledge of language skills and sentence structure in order to become better writers. The first five Traits are critical to effective revision of the content: Idea, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency .

Students having difficulties with Revising may benefit from

  • Praise-Question-Polish (narrative)
  • text-mimicry
  • reformatting longer writings into separate pages/parts, cutting them up, and moving them around to reorganize (informative/explanatory)
  • panel critique (argument)
  • peer-review color-coding activities (green dot for understanding, yellow dot for questions, red dot for confusion/inaccuracies)
  • teacher-created checklists

House with color

An interior designer
and the owner paint and
furnish the house. A
landscaper beautifies the
exterior of the house.

Editing: This stage involves the beautification of the piece and should be undertaken when all revisions to the content are complete. The writing is revisited to correct errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage and made be done independently or by engaging in peer editing. The Conventions Trait is the most prominent at this phase of the writing process.

A strong foundation in the conventions of Standard English is important, but not essential to students working on Editing their own or a peer’s writing.  Students may benefit from

House with audience

The new homeowner
invites friends, family,
and neighbors to an
Open House.

Publishing: This stage involves sharing the writing with an intended audience and may involve preparing a neatly handwritten or word processed copy of the final draft and the addition of illustrations or other graphic elements. Publication may extend to a multimedia presentation or lead to a public performance. In most cases, the teacher is a member of the audience and is encouraged to give credit for the process and the completed piece at this stage. The Presentation Trait is emphasized during this phase of the writing process as the writer works to make the piece appealing and inviting to the audience.

While sharing one’s writing is an important goal of instruction focused on the Publishing stage, students may need assistance with document design and formatting, selecting illustrations and creating graphs, and adding other components to make it easier for an audience to approach the writing.  Students may benefit from

  • panel critique
  • gallery walks
  • interdisciplinary partnerships

House with color

As a house ages, as a homeowner’s family grows, repairs and additions may be desirable.

Revisiting: This post-publication stage occurs after the essay is published and graded. Based on teacher direction, the students may return to the composition to “rework” language of the text. In the same way that athletic coaches and players recognize that reviewing game tape and sometimes returning to fundamentals is the only way to continuously improve performance, teachers and students should use finished pieces to practice composition skills in preparation for future assignments.

For example, a teacher might recognize after grading the set of papers that students did not vary sentence beginnings. Given this information, the teacher might ask the students to return to a piece of writing and revise three sentences so that they begin with verbals. Or, a teacher may direct students to practice writing different types of conclusions in preparation for another assignment. Similarly, a student may review his/her writing portfolio and select a piece from a previous year to expand.

As students develop increased independence, teacher guidance during the Revisiting may be relaxed in favor of revisiting past writings to expand or narrow focus, to integrate research and other sources, or to present the writing to a different audience.  Students may benefit from

  • deconstructing exercises
  • recontextualizing
  • concept mapping
  • research activities

Online Resources for Teachers and Students:

Audio and Video:


  • Write It (Scholastic): An online writing resource that’s packed with engaging ways to build your students’ writing skills. The site provides teachers and students with:
    • Resources from Literary Cavalcade and other Scholastic publications.
    • Units of lessons and activities which focus on specific genres like Poetry, Essay, Short Fiction, Memoir, Humor, and Journalism.
    • An Interactive Online Community for students and teachers to share and discuss writing
    • Teacher's Guide