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Literacy Partners

The Writing Process for Primary Grades

I’ve visited hundreds of schools and noticed a lot of confusion around the stages of the writing process.

To learn more about the writing process for the upper grades (3-8), you can find it here: Stages of the Writing Process for Upper Grades.

Today, you’ll learn about the stages of the writing process for the lower grades — kindergarten through second grade.

Many of you may remember the old way of teaching writing:

PRE-WRITE → DRAFT → REVISE→ EDIT→ PUBLISH

Here are the stages of the writing process we recommend for the primary grades (K-2):

A tip before you begin: 

For the younger grades, we suggest that kids write using paper choices and folders to organize their work, not notebooks. Notebooks don’t allow the same flexibility and differentiation that the paper choices do. When offering paper choices to primary writers, you can allow students who are just learning letters and sounds a paper with a large picture box, and one or two lines while offering more proficient writers paper choices with a smaller picture box and several lines.

These paper choices should have a minimum of 3 pages and we recommend they’re pre-stapled. This will help kids organize their writing into a beginning, middle, and end.  Students can then move on to 5-page booklets as they become more proficient later in the year.

Stage 1: Immersion
The entire first week before you begin your unit of study.
Read more about this from our Immersion article.

Stage 2: Coming Up With Ideas for Your Writing
Teach 1-2 mini-lessons on this at the start of a new unit.

You can build a chart that continues to grow and add new strategies as you teach them. When you notice students are independent with this, you can stop teaching them new strategies.

Ask students to think of an idea for their writing — this could be a story, book, poem, letter, review, etc. During this stage, you’ll teach a few strategies for how to do this: For example: In narrative writing, you could have them think of a person, place or thing and a moment that matters to them to write across the pages.

Stage 2:  Planning
Teach 1-2 mini-lessons on this at the start of a new unit. You can build a chart that continues to grow and add new strategies as you teach them. 

When you notice students are independent with this, you can stop teaching them new strategies.

This is where students will plan/organize their writing across the pages. Here are some strategies for how to do this:

  • sketch across the pages
  • rehearse it out loud alone or with a partner
  • touch the pages or lines to say what they’ll write before they do
  • jot a few words on a sticky note and place it on the page as a placeholder to help them remember

Stage 3: Write!
Here, kids will use labels and sentences. This is an excellent opportunity to teach some strategies on how to decide what words to write, how to spell tricky words, how to add labels, speech bubbles, thought bubbles, and more setting details. These can be added to the pictures and then later to the words once the writer is more proficient.

Stage 4: Reread
This is the stage where kids will reread their pieces. This may look like kids rereading their pictures or it may look like kids actually reading what they wrote. Make sure you model rereading in your lessons over and over again — it will take some repetition for kids to make this a habit. You may also want to create a routine where kids start every writing workshop with 3 minutes of rereading their drawings and rereading their writing. No pencils allowed until the 3 minutes is up!

Stage 5: Revision
Teach 3-5 mini-lessons on specific strategies for this. Some of them may be a review of what you taught previously.

This is where kids will revise their writing using all the strategies they know. You can ask them to zoom in on the most important moment and stretch it out, add dialogue, add internal thinking, add setting details, and more. These are just a few examples for narrative writing.

Stage 6: Editing
Teach 1-2 mini-lessons on specific strategies for this. Some of them may be a review of what they already learned.

Using all the strategies they know, you’ll teach students how to make sure they did the best they could with spelling, sight words, proper capitalization, and ending punctuation.

Stage 7: Repeat
Have students start again with a new idea and go through stages 1- 6 again — students will do this within 1-2 days.

Stage 8: Publishing
Teach 1 mini-lesson on this day to get kids going.

When it’s time for the class to get ready for publishing, have each kid choose their best piece of writing. This should be a piece that they gave a great effort towards. Then, have them complete final revisions and edits on this piece and guide them to use the charts to help.

When they’re ready to publish their pieces, you can have them add some illustrations and color and get it ready for your celebration or publishing party. This is also a fantastic time to have students create an about the author page, a dedication page, or a blurb for the back of the book.  They would likely do only one of these as publishing should take just one day.

Stage 9: Celebrate!
1 day

Choose a plan for celebrating the hard work and progress your students made. Ask your students to reflect on how they’ve grown as a writer and have them verbalize what they did well and what they want to improve upon next time.

Here are some fun celebration ideas:

  • Plan a publishing party that’s focused on your students’ publishing projects
  • Display writing work on a bulletin board in or outside of the classroom for other students, parents, visitors to read
  • Reading their pieces to a small group or partner
  • Meeting with a buddy class — whether upper or lower grade to share their pieces
  • Inviting parents to see the writing
  • Setting up the writing as a museum for students to wander around, read each other’s pieces, and write compliments to each other

Stage 10: Assessment
1 day

We recommend that once the unit is over and you’ve celebrated all of the students’ hard work, you ask them to do a post an On-Demand writing sample. This will help you see what learning has stuck with them and what strategies students are independent with!

This will give you the truest idea of what students can do independently, more so than even the published piece of writing.

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