So your kids have been writing all year. They’ve spent time on each step – prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing, but sometimes kids can master each and every step and still have difficulty putting it all together on their own. Being able to produce that finished product without guidance from step to step is the real test.
At this time of year, language arts teachers in upper elementary and middle school may be looking for ways to help their students master that final step of putting it all together. And sometimes the kids need to practice just the process, before launching into the time-consuming activity of writing a long essay or story from start to finish.
Here’s an activity I like that is short and do-able. As you can see, it is still a basic writing assignment, but with modifications to make it student-friendly. First of all – it’s short, usually one paragraph, although you could set any length that seems appropriate for you group. Second, it’s all spelled out on a two-page activity sheet. Students can take it and run with it, with no interim instructions or coaching from the teacher. I think of it as in intermediate step, a quick little review and practice of the process – before students move on to writing full-size essays from beginning to end with even less instruction.
To make it more enjoyable for the kids, I use a drawing activity as the prewriting. Students are given a choice of three general topics and instructions for drawing a quick picture based on one of them. They are also to add a caption that tells what is happening in their picture and list three main details from their drawing. This narrows down the topic, and gives the students a little something to start writing with. Next they write a draft – just one paragraph.
Directions and space to draw and write those first two steps are all contained on page one of the activity sheet, and page two contains the rest.
For revising, students are given a list of seven specific ways that they can revise, and directed to choose two or more. They can simply revise using a colored pencil and writing changes in the margins of their draft, or they could write a second draft if that works better for them. Here are the revising ideas that I used; they won’t all work on any one paragraph, but kids should easily find a few that will suit.
- Add a good beginning sentence and ending sentence, or improve your current ones.
- Add more details about what is happening in the picture.
- Add descriptive words and phrases.
- Replace ordinary words and phrases with more interesting ones.
- Change the tense of your paragraph from present to past, or from past to present.
- Change the point of view from first person to third, or from third to first.
- Add a line of dialog.
For proofreading, kids are referred to a proofreading chart that they might keep in their notebooks or that you might have posted in the classroom. They make their corrections in a different color from the revisions. This chart, as well as the revising list above, give students help that they can use independently and at their own pace. For the final step, presentation, students are directed to write a neat, final copy, and then cut out their picture and the final copy and paste them both on colored paper to post in the room.
I’ve put the two-page activity sheet along with the proofreading chart together into a free printable that you can download now if you like. You can get it here: Writing Process – Quick Practice.
If you give this activity a try, I’d love to hear how it worked for you, or if you have another quick practice idea that you would like to share.