How long do your students spend writing their draft when they are working on a writing project?
For most students, writing a draft usually encompasses about 90% of the time they spend on a project.
They spend days and days composing a draft, leaving little energy or enthusiasm for editing and revising.
It is no wonder, then, that rough drafts stay just that — rough. Revisions, if any, are weak and editing is almost as bad. When they publish, it is often just a rewrite of the draft, mistakes and all -- only neater.
Does this sound familiar?
Janet Angelillo, author of Making Revision Matter (Scholastic, 2005) suggests that a simple mind shift change can solve this problem. Angelillo writes that we need to think about how we teach students to structure their time when working on a project. She suggests that students should be taught to draft for one to two days only, then spend five days working on revisions.
Think about that — one to two days drafting for every five revision days.
What does that tell students (and us teachers!) about where writers should spend most of their time and energy when working on a project?
So how do we teach this time management shift to our students? Fast drafting is a good technique to teach.
Through fast drafting, students get their ideas out of their mind and down onto paper quickly. The purpose is to do this quickly so there is plenty of time, energy and interest for revision.
Ready to teach your students to fast draft? Here are a few ways to get started:
Start anywhere: Writers often get caught up with trying to start a piece of writing at the beginning. Why not start wherever the most energy and creativity is, even if that is the middle or the end? You can always build on to the weaker parts during revision.
Timed writing: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Tell students they must write their whole piece within that time limit. They are looking to jot down just the main ideas or action. Again, revision is where they will fill in the blanks.
Leave blanks: Often times when I am drafting, I sit and think while I'm trying to come up with that just-right word or idea. This can not only kill my writing flow, it takes a lot of time away from writing. Encourage your students to draw a blank line where they are struggling for the right word or idea, then keep moving on with their writing. This will make drafting go much faster and set them up for revision success.
Turn off the critic: Too often we get stalled in our writing because we are listening to our inner critic squawking in our ear about how we are doing it all wrong. Tell the critic to be quiet and force your pen to keep moving. Setting a timer also helps with this.
Set word count goals: Again using a timer, set a goal of how many words you want to draft within that certain time. Get writing and see if you can tell your entire story within that time limit. When you are finished, count your words and see if you met your word count goal. You can also record your words and track your progress from project to project. This method encourages us not only to write fast, but to ignore that inner critic again.
Fast drafting is not just for students — it’s for you too, teacher-writers. Don’t let all of your writing energy be drained by trying to write the perfect first draft. There is no such thing.
That’s what revision is for.
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