I’ve heard from teachers all over that they are at a loss for helping their reluctant writers. I say “reluctant” on purpose because I don’t love the term “struggling” writers. A lot of students aren’t necessarily struggling but rather, they are reluctant because they simply don’t know what to do when it comes to writing. I’m going to share my secret with you. This is the ONE thing that you will do to give your students the ability to become independent writers.
The Power of the Process
Here’s the cool thing about the writing process: it doesn’t change… it’s the same no matter what! I’m a published author (three times now) and the process that I teach children is exactly the same as the one that I go through when I sit down to write. I pick an idea. I make a plan. I write it out in all of its ugly first draft glory. I look at it again- hence the term REvise. Once I’ve played around with it and got to a place that I like, I edit it (well, I pay someone smarter than me to edit it but you get it). Finally, I send that work out into the world.
If this is what real writers do, why in the world wouldn’t we want our students to know this?
They’ve Got To Memorize It
The “trick” to this system is getting the process ingrained in their system. Once they know the process and what is required at each level, they will start churning out high-quality books and writing pieces! Your students need to internalize the writing process. I do this by teaching them a call and response “chant” that is complete with body gestures. This helps students remember the process quickly! We do this over, and over, and over, and over…until they can say it without my help! This step is critical. They need to be able to articulate what step they are on and what that means. This is how we get them to achieve autonomy. Ready for the chant? Here goes:
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Like, literally that’s it. Did you hear how well they knew it? That isn’t an accident. Once students are able to repeat this chant, then you can break down each one of those steps into manageable chunks for children. They will be able to get a solid grip on seemingly abstract terms like “editing and revising” because they will have internalized the concept enough to build on. For example, asking a child to dive into revision or editing by teaching them the C.O.P.S., C.U.P.S., A.R.M.S., D.A.R.E. or any other acronym (sheesh!) for revision/editing might work- but for a 6-year-old who is still learning how to handle the basics of writing, they would likely be more successful if they truly understood that they were looking for specific ways to improve or correct their writing. Conceptual understanding…it matters!