Follow Your Own Writing Process (Grades 3 & Up)

To print a copy of this chart, follow this link to the PDF in Google Drive. It prints nicely as a 36″ x 48″ chart. Then add your students’ names to magnets and you have an interactive writing process chart. It helps students to individualize the writing process.
I love how teaching is a journey and we are constantly changing in order to refine the art of instruction. As I began writing more, I realized the age-old linear writing process chart wasn’t quite the truth for me. I began to watch young writers and I soon found it wasn’t quite the truth for them either. So I came up with this version in order to help students find a unique and efficient writing process. Here are a few thoughts to help when using this chart in classrooms.
  • Students need to draft more than they publish. Drafting is practice and the more we practice something the better we become. However, sometimes students fall into a trap of thinking as long as they write one narrative or one editorial or one (fill in the blank with your current unit of study) then they are finished. The problem is compounded because students write at different rates. Then there are a few who are “done” and the rest who are still writing. This often leads to behavior issues.
  • The cyclic nature of the top half of the chart — collecting, planning, and drafting — allows students to enter into a writing project in a way that is best for them. 
  • By adding in the “selection” step, when students say they are “done,” you can invite them to write another new draft. (Not a second draft where they recopy what they just wrote, but a completely new draft.) Now instead of some moving on down the writing process, everyone continues to practice by collecting, planning, and drafting. Students must have more than one draft in order to “select” and there is a specific date when the selection is planned. (See next bullet.)
  • I’ve found setting a draft deadline is useful. I ask students to have a minimum of two drafts complete by a certain date. Again, this is draft writing — they are going to select one draft to complete the grueling work of revision and editing, and then they will go public with their writing.
  • When students enter into revision with a draft they care about (not just a draft they wrote to get done), then revision becomes meaningful and significant. It also allows time to teach the whole class revision strategies in a timely manner. The same holds true for editing.

The story behind this little chart (below) was originally published online in October 2011.

I like the cyclical nature of collecting and drafting, collecting and drafting, collecting and drafting. So often young writers write a draft and say, “I’m done.” You know, I’ve come to believe sometimes they are. We don’t revise, edit, and publish everything we write. We select the drafts which are worthy of the time, energy, and hard work needed to get our work ready to go public. In order for kids to learn to write well, they need to draft more than they revise. They need to draft way more than they publish.  At some point, though, we select the work that is worth our time and we spend time polishing it — revising, editing, and then going public.

A page from my reflective
practice journal.
As I considered my own writing process, I realized I don’t always enter every project in the same way. As students become more experienced writers, they need the freedom to adjust the writing process to fit their needs. The more I thought about the writing process, the more I realized that as students move into intermediate grades, they were outgrowing a linear writing process chart.

The straight line chart has been one I’ve used for years. I could have kept using it, but as my thinking changed, I want the resources I use to change and evolve too. Here is a page from my reflective practice journal where I’m attempting to sort out my thinking. You’ll see there are ideas in my notebook that aren’t on the chart. (However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t eventually share these nuances with students.)
The original writing process chart I used
with young writers for a number of years.

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  1. Ruth, this is exciting! Now if I can just figure out how to print the chart poster size and get the magnets for student names, I'll be in business! We are moving toward our short story unit, so this post came at a perfect time. I like the idea that students need at least 2 drafts in order to “select” and that there is a specific date for the draft deadline. Thanks for sharing!