I’ve taught writing in various capacities to hundreds of students, from 3rd graders to graduate students. There are numerous systems designed to teach kids how to write, all claiming to be “the way.” I prefer to teach the following paradigm, as it provides a fantastically solid foundation. This is a universal approach that works with all ages, so don’t hesitate to cut, paste and modify my words into a useful reference for yourself or your students. Good authors consciously or unconsciously use this basic process for everything they write. I hope it serves you!
SPECIAL NOTE: Philosophically speaking, when teaching writing I see it as my job to facilitate a love for writing first and foremost. Everything else will come later if a student learns to love and value the art of writing. On the other hand, if a student can write “in the box” perfectly, gets high scores of standardized tests, has perfect spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc. but has not developed a love for writing, as far as I’m concerned his/her teachers have done an appalling disservice.
Carefully consider who you writing for. Take your time to thoughtfully imagine your audience and how best to communicate with them.
What are you trying to make the reader feel, think or do? Refer back to your audience and purpose ideas throughout the writing process.
Step 1. PLAN (aka Pre-writing)
This is the most important part of the process and requires a bit of time. This is also the most underused part of the process. When people don’t plan thoughtfully, writing becomes disorganized and goes in too many directions. Use any of the following to plan: Brainstorms, think, imagine, visualize, lists, graphic organizers, outlines, webs, post its, talk it out with someone, talk ideas on an audio recorder, note cards or anything else that helps plan writing.
Step 2. DRAFT
Get it on paper in an organized manner. The focus is on expanding your “plan” ideas into sentences and paragraphs, NOT on perfection. Allow messy crossouts, eraser marks, arrows, markups, etc. all over the draft.
Step 3. REVISE
Polish your ideas, check that your purpose is being met. Authors revise many, many times.
Step 4. EDIT
Polish MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar, spelling).
Step 5. PUBLISH
Aka “final draft.” Get it as perfect as possible. Neat, organized, ready for a reader to read. Make sure the paper fulfills your purpose for your audience. Add a cover page.