The Writing Process: Prewriting
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada is a picture book that I discovered recently and I think it would be an excellent read aloud to emphasize the importance and value of having a good idea. It is a story about a young boy who has an idea, but ignores it because of what others think. He is tempted to let it go, but in the end he changes his mind. This book could be used to start a discussion about having different and unusual ideas, sticking with them, and how they can make a positive contribution to our world.
A big goal that I have for my upper elementary students is for them to become independent writers. By this I mean they can work independently and productively during writing time while I am doing one-on-one conferencing and working with small writing groups. For this to happen, students need to understand how they are to work through each step of the writing process. For the next several posts, I will share how I have interpreted the writing process for my students.
The first step in the writing process is prewriting. I think of prewriting in two parts.
Part 1 Students find multiple writing ideas.
In my opinion, coming up with multiple writing ideas is the most challenging part of the writing process for young student writers. They are often stomped before they have even started! So I am a strong believer in helping students learn that there are many ways to find writing ideas, and that their ideas at times will be different to someone else’s and that is okay. To get students started, I recommend spending at least two lessons focused on finding writing ideas, and how to keep track of them in their writer’s notebooks. This does not mean that they will use every idea they have, but they will have a bank of ideas at their fingertips. It would be helpful if you could give them regular reminders to grow their list.
Here are some ways students can find writing ideas.
- Brainstorm a topic
- List ideas of things they are good at, things they know a lot about, favorite places, best experiences, favorite people, Wow! Moments, Oh, no! Moments, I remember when moments
- Talk about ideas with friends and family
- Look through newspapers and write down headings that could be turned into a story
- Take the characters from a familiar story and write an original story
- Lift a line from a morning page entry and develop it
Part 2 Students choose one good writing idea.
Once students have multiple writing ideas they should choose one good idea to take through the writing process. They need to decide the purpose for their writing. Are they writing to inform, to persuade, or to entertain? Each of these will require a specific writing structure for the writing to hold the reader’s attention. Who are they writing for? Which genre will best convey the message that they want to communicate?
Next, students will choose an approach to plan their writing. They may decide to brainstorm, use a graphic organizer, do an outline, etc. Once they have written a skeleton of an idea, they are ready to move on to the next step, drafting.