By Chris Kauflin
Author of Smiletown Books
Getting students to embrace the writing process can be a difficult challenge for teachers. It’s very common for educators to say they stress the fact that writing is a process, but typically, students just don’t buy into it. How can teachers guide students through this important process without making it feel like a chore?
The obvious answer is to make it fun and give students the opportunity to share their work. If a student knows his writing is going to be published or read by others, there is a much better chance he will put forth the effort the process requires. Conversely, if the teacher is the only audience, the student may not work quite as hard. Creating ways to hold students accountable for their writing samples may therefore encourage them to produce higher quality work.
Making books or compilations of students’ work and displaying it in public places, like the waiting room of a doctor’s office or school library, can also help teachers to get students to take ownership of the writing process. In addition, allowing a student the autonomy to choose a subject that interests him can help create excitement in what otherwise may be perceived as a daunting task. With creative writing, I suggest the teacher give genre freedom to the student. One student may want to write a picture book, while another may prefer poetry. And finally, quality over quantity is key. Wouldn’t you rather read a single well-crafted paragraph as opposed to three careless ones?
Educators can stress the steps of the writing process, but it’s important to understand that the steps can vary, as well as be shuffled and tailored to the individual writer. Let’s compare writing to math. In math general formulas are taught, but many students solve problems with their own customized algorithms and still come up with the correct answer. You can’t necessarily say a student’s steps to solving the problem were wrong if he has the correct answer. The writing process is similar because if a student writes a clear, strong story, he obviously followed the proper steps. Below I have outlined the steps to my writing process:
- Reading—Read, Read, Read! Reading teaches writers how to spell, builds vocabulary, and illustrates proper grammar. Reading also feeds the imagination.
- Ideas—Always have a journal handy. Whenever you have and idea, write it down and capture it. Ideas are like little birds…a great idea can fly into your brain, but if you don’t capture it, it will fly away and you’ll never think of it again.
- Organize—Take an idea from your journal. Expand and organize your thoughts by writing a rough draft.
- Research—Find out the Facts! The reader will stay engaged if your story is believable.
- Revise—Rewrite your story, change words and sentences. Add details. Read it out loud, and make changes to the parts that don’t flow. Revising makes a story clearer. Without clarity the reader will be lost.
- Editing—Correct all misspellings and grammatical mistakes. If you can’t do this on your own, find an editor.
- Feedback—Ask friends and relatives to read the story; then ask them what they liked or didn’t like. Ask them how you can make your story better.
- Revise—Incorporate any suggestions that you liked during the feedback stage into the piece.
- Share—Once you’ve gone through the writing process make sure to share your story with others.
My name is Chris Kauflin, and I'm a local children's picture book author and certified elementary school teacher. I have given over 50 writing process presentations throughout Colorado school districts and have references upon request. Please contact me if you are interested in scheduling a visit for your school at Chris@smiletownbooks.com.