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Always Write
(Grades K-12)

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Writing Process: Rough Draft Resources
teaching quality composing skills so that revision can go even deeper!

Hello, my name is Corbett Harrison, and I've been told that I facilitate a fairly competent Writers Workshop for my student writers. During my first few years as a teacher, I believe the exact opposite was true; my students found the act of writing to be more chore than journey. Thank goodness I began working with teachers from the Northern Nevada Writing Project's about five years into my career. The work I did with this excellent organization helped me discover new ways to make the process of writing something my students didn't automatically groan about.

I have two thoughts I want to share about helping students write better rough drafts. I don't profess to be an expert on any best way to teach students to explore the writing process, but I have picked up a few tips over the years. I have no 100 watt bulbs to share, but when it comes to drafting writing, I think I might have a 25 watt bulb or two.

First, I discovered that many of my struggling writers benefited from talking to each other as their rough drafts were being composed. As a first- and second-year teacher, we wrote in silence, which is how I remembered being asked to write when I was in middle and high school. I discovered that many of my students, however, had interpersonal learning styles, which meant they needed to talk about their drafts throughout the drafting stage. I encourage you to find ways to allow your students a chance to stop, to talk quietly and meaningfully about progress they are making, to hear how fellow students are making progress, and then to return to their rough drafts. It takes a little more time to complete a draft when this system is in place, but I honestly found improvement in my students "sloppy copies," which meant their final drafts could become even better.

Second, don't jump into drafting too soon. Donald M. Murray believed that 85% of the writing process should happen before students ever begin writing rough drafts. I have come to believe this too. On state writing tests here in Nevada, we introduce students to their assigned prompt, allow them a very short time to brainstorm, then order them to start drafting. This strikes me as a very poor way to encourage the best writing from our students. Structure your writers workshop (and all other time you spend with your writers) so that huge amounts of time (make 85% your goal) be set aside for meaningful pre-writing activities before your students begin drafting their most important writing assignments.

On this page, we share some drafting tools and ideas that have been created and used in Northern Nevada.

Want to participate in this developing WritingFix page? If you have a favorite original lesson or tool for teaching your students to compose better rough drafts that you would be willing to let us post here, we will send you one of the NNWP Print Publications in exchange for us being allowed to feature it. Contact us at webmaster@writingfix.com for details or to summarize a drafting idea/tool that you'd be willing to send us.

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Trait-Specific Rough Draft Worksheets

Highly Structured Support for Students' Rough Drafts

If you have identified a trait-specific skill for your students to work on with a particular writing assignment, print the appropriate drafting worksheet from below for them to compose on.

Each drafting worksheet below comes with a skill-specific checklist on the second page for students to complete when their rough drafts are completed.

The intent of the embedded checklists is to give your students skill-specific vocabulary to bring to their response groups.

Not all your students need structural support techniques like the ones provided below. If you have students who can successfully compose writing without using these structures, then don't use these with them. Forcing a student to compose a hamburger paragraph or a five-paragraph essay when they could create a better piece of writing without that structure...well, it stifles authentic writing!

Great writing teachers know which students need structures like those below and which students don't, and they figure out how to give each individual exactly the support he/she needs.

Composing a Hamburger Paragraph:
(These four resources come from the NNWP's WAC Guide and 6 Traits Guide.)

Composing a Power Paragraph & Power Essay:
(These two resources comes from the NNWP's now out-of-print Secondary Writing Guide.)

Composing a Comparison/Contrast Essay:
(this resource comes from the NNWP's Comparison & Contrast Guide.)

Recommended Classroom Books on Writing:

Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words by Ralph Fletcher

A favorite quote on drafting from chapter one of this book: As a writer you have to be willing to strike out more times than you get a hit. Try not to get discouraged. Most of the sentences and paragaphs in my first drafts aren't great; they are just okay. When I reread what I've first written, I find a few places where there is a spark, a hint of something good (Ralph Fletcher).

Creating Writers through 6-Trait Writing Assessment and Instruction by Vicki Spandel

A favorite quote on drafting from chapter five of this book: Another secret to drafting is to find the right balance between quick writing and revising. Nearly all the books on writing process say we should get our ideas down quickly and NOT revise or edit anything as we go. But I find this to be just another of those highly restrictive "rules" that's almost impossible to follow. (Vicki Spandel).

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Please, share the resources you find on these pages freely with fellow educators, but please leave any page citations on handouts intact, and please give authorship credit to the cited teachers who created these wonderful lessons and resources. Thanks in advance for honoring other educators' intellectual property.

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