Supporting the writing process

To support students to produce high quality writing that achieves its purpose and has impact on the reader, teachers need to:

  • understand the processes writers move between as they create text
  • engage students in reading and writing rich texts
  • model the writing processes and the “interior dialogue’ that effective writers engage in during the process of creating texts
  • provide a range of cross curricular opportunities for writing texts.

Processes and strategies for writing

Writers move between certain processes as they create texts. These processes relate to the stages of creating a text. The processes are:

  • forming intentions (planning) for writing;
  • crafting or composing a text;
  • reflecting on, recrafting, and presenting (or publishing) the text.

It is important to recognise that these processes are not discrete but are closely interrelated. Generally, writers do not use them in sequence but in the way that is most appropriate to the new text they are creating. Moving between the processes is influenced by what has gone before and what is anticipated. For example:

  • the initial intention may be clarified during crafting and recrafting;
  • crafting often creates a need for gathering more information or reorganising ideas;
  • decisions made during crafting and recrafting sometimes influence how the text will be presented.

Writers employ a range of strategies to help them write effectively, many of which relate to the reading processing strategies. Writers attend to their developing text and search for the exact word or phrase that will convey the desired meaning; they predict by thinking about which words, language features, or structural features will enhance their text for its purpose; and they continually reread, cross-check, confirm, and self-correct their writing in terms of its meaning, accuracy, and impact.

Writers also use strategies that relate to the reading comprehension strategies. Good writers, like good readers, synthesise ideas and information. They bring together previous learning and experiences, make connections, visualise, and go on to create imaginative pieces or clear descriptive accounts. They analyse and evaluate ideas and information as they clarify their intentions, choose vocabulary, compose, and recraft their work.

Students need both excellent models and explicit instruction in how to move between the writing processes and use the writing strategies efficiently and effectively. They also need many opportunities to practise what they know, address new challenges, and simply enjoy writing. Refer to pages 153–160 in chapter 5 for more information on the processes and strategies that writers use.

Forming intentions for writing

Forming intentions means planning carefully in order to create an effective text that has clarity and impact. Teachers need to provide focused instruction on how to identify purposes and audiences for writing, how to choose a text form that aligns to the purpose for writing, and how to gather, select, and organise ideas and information for writing. Teachers can engage their students in forming intentions for writing by, for example, sharing personal stories with them, reading to or with them, researching a topic with them, or discussing a topic in depth with them.

When students know what writing that achieves its purpose looks like, they can develop personal learning goals for improving their writing in specific ways.

The points listed under the headings “What writers do” and “How teachers can support learners” are examples rather than comprehensive lists of what writers do and what teachers might say to support them.

What writers do

  • identify the purpose and audience for their writing
  • think carefully about the possible content of their writing
  • gather, select, and organise ideas and information, either in their minds (to be drawn upon when required) or by recording them using graphic organisers such as word lists, flow charts, and mind maps
  • make connections between the ideas and information, ask questions about them, visualise them, analyse them, synthesise them, and evaluate them, in order to decide which ideas and information to include
  • visualise a structure or sequence that conveys their intended meaning
  • decide on the text form that best meets their purpose
  • discuss their planning with other writers and get feedback about it.

How teachers can support learners

  • The goal of our shared writing session is to identify and articulate a writing purpose and describe the audience before beginning to write. Knowing why you are writing and who you are writing for affects the text forms that you consider using.
  • I will demonstrate how I record my planning for explanation writing as a flow chart. I want you to think about the best way to sequence the text and whether I could improve my planning.
  • What is the purpose of your writing? How will your reader work this out? Will it be stated or implied? Why?
  • Who is your intended audience? How do you think this will affect your writing?
  • What do you want your readers to think about as they read your text? What will you include or exclude to ensure that your readers consider these points?
  • What will you need to do to gather and organise your ideas for writing this text? What difficulties do you think you will have in doing this?
  • Remember your personal learning goal as you plan for writing this text. What are you trying to improve in your writing? What was that recent feedback on your writing that you wanted to act on?
  • The mind map that you have developed indicates the key ideas that you want to communicate. I suggest that you sequence these ideas before you write – this might help you to clarify your thinking.
  • You will need to analyse this section of the text you’re referring to if you want to get information for your writing. This means that you will need to skim-read it and identify the key points. Think about how we did this in shared reading.
  • Read this article closely, because it contains examples of the criteria you are working to meet. Let’s see if we can identify them.

Crafting or composing a text

Crafting or composing a text means recording ideas and information, usually on paper or in electronic form. The student creates a text to meet the writing purpose and engage the intended audience by writing down the best possible words in the best possible order, using and extending their knowledge of English vocabulary and syntax.

Students can develop their expertise in many aspects of crafting a text by watching and listening as the teacher or another writer demonstrates or explains a relevant part of the process. They also learn about crafting texts by thinking and talking about the texts that they read and by discussing frequently, with their teacher and with other students, what they are doing as they write.

The points listed under the headings “What writers do” and “How teachers can support learners” are examples rather than comprehensive lists of what writers do and what teachers might say to support them.

What writers do

  • order selected ideas and information in a way that makes the meaning of the text clear to the reader
  • shape their text to create links between the main information and supporting details or between the introduction and conclusion
  • synthesise and use ideas from their previous learning about texts, for example, ideas about using appropriate vocabulary, text structure, and language features
  • ask questions of themselves (and sometimes others) about the content and impact of their writing, considering especially the deeper features of their writing, such as author’s voice, structure, vocabulary usage, imagery, and language features
  • attend to these deeper features of their writing and also to surface features, such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation (where this does not interrupt the flow of composition at this stage)
  • seek and act on feedback from their peers.

How teachers can support learners

  • As I write, I want you to think about whether I am making my intended writing purpose clear. Be ready to suggest to me what changes I can make so that my text matches my writing purpose.
  • Our learning goal for writing today is to make sure that the main points of our reports are very clear to the reader. We have identified this as a need that many of you have when you write reports. Look particularly at where I place my main points in the paragraph, how I draw the reader’s attention to them, and how I support them with detail.
  • How are you making use of the language features that we identified in the text that we read together? How are they enhancing your writing?
  • I notice you’re using some technical words, like “hypothesis”, “data”, and “phenomena”. How do these strengthen your writing?
  • Are you thinking about the key sounds or the spelling pattern of that word as you write it down?
  • Maybe you need to look again at the explanation that we wrote together to see how to express cause and effect clearly.
  • How are you attempting to meet your personal learning goal for writing? What do you expect to get particular feedback on?
  • I’m unsure about your point of view on the topic after reading the introduction that you’ve drafted. You have only described your topic so far. I want to know your position on it.
  • We agreed earlier that imagery can sometimes enhance a piece of transactional writing, but it can also become intrusive. Think about whether all the imagery you’ve used in this text is appropriate for the purpose and audience.

Reflecting on, recrafting, and presenting text

Proficient writers continually reflect on what they write. They reread their text again and again, both as they write and after writing. This often leads to recrafting (making changes to their text) if the writer thinks of a way to meet their purpose more effectively, clarify their meaning, or give their writing more impact. This process of reflecting on the text and recrafting it is sometimes called revising and editing.

Often, but not always, writers decide to present their text to others, for example, by publishing it in written form. (Every text is written for an audience, but sometimes that audience is the writer alone, or the writer and the teacher.) The writer may make further changes to their text to enhance the way it will look or sound to the intended audience.

Students often find it useful to ask their teacher or peers for feedback on their recrafting or their preparation for publishing or presenting. Writers become better writers when they reflect and act on informative, thoughtful, and constructive feedback.

The points listed under the headings “What writers do” and “How teachers can support learners” are examples rather than comprehensive lists of what writers do and what teachers might say to support them. 

What writers do

  • reread and evaluate the ideas and information that they record, seeking and acting on feedback from others to ensure that their writing is clear and meets its purpose
  • reread their writing to evaluate its impact (especially the effect of the vocabulary, structure, and language features), seeking and acting on feedback about how their choices may affect the intended audience
  • make changes to their text after rereading, evaluating, and seeking feedback, usually to clarify the meaning or add to the impact, for example, by:
    • adding words or ideas
    • changing the way words and ideas are organised in the text
    • replacing words with better ones or deleting redundant words
    • adding language features or improving them
  • proofread the text carefully, checking the surface features and correcting any errors
  • consider how to share their writing most effectively with their intended audience
  • present the text in a way that will enhance the effect it has on its audience
  • (after the writing has been presented) reflect on whether they have achieved their writing purpose and what they might do differently as a writer the next time they write.

How teachers can support learners

  • Let’s reread the draft that we wrote together yesterday. As we reread it, I want you to focus on how far we achieved our learning goal of “implying characterisation through carefully chosen anecdotes”. Think about changes we could make to meet this goal more successfully.
  • I want you to observe and think carefully about all the changes that I make to my draft. Why might I make them? Do they help my writing to meet its purpose?
  • Do you think you need to make any more changes to meet your writing purpose better or to make a direct connection with your audience?
  • What would happen if you added/deleted/ altered that word/sentence/language feature? How would that affect your text?
  • I don’t quite understand that part. How could you change it to help me, as a reader, to understand it better?
  • Do you think your writing will be easy to read? Have you checked your surface features for errors? How are you going to present the text so that others appreciate your writing and get your meaning clearly?
  • How are you going to use the feedback that the group or your partner has given you? What is the most important point that you have taken from our discussion of your writing? What are you going to do with this information?
  • You have clearly met your learning goal for writing. Your consistent use of the inclusive “we” engages the reader in your recount, just as you intended. I suggest that you now reread your text and attend to the tenses of your verbs. The way they move between present and past tense confuses me a little, especially in the middle section.
  • Revising means rereading to check that the text makes sense and conveys the meaning as well as possible. Reread your draft writing carefully and think about any revisions that might help your reader to understand your writing more clearly. Get feedback on this from a friend.