Introduction Getting Ready
Learning Circles Teachers' Guide
Open Circle Plan Projects Share Work Publish
Close Circle Overview

The Writing Process

The writing process has been described in a number of different steps or phases. For the purpose of this guide, three large steps are used, planning, drafting and polishing.


Professional writers plan their writing, sometimes at their desk, sometimes while engaged in other routine activities such as mowing the lawn or washing dishes. Novice writers need to understand the importance of planning and often require explicit directions on how to plan. Your students may need help and encouragement to think and read about a topic before they begin writing. The student messages soliciting information for their sponsored Learning Circle project will help your students plan. It might also be helpful to begin by having your students respond to these three planning questions:

  2. What is the topic of our writing?
  3. Who is our audience? What will be interesting to them?
  4. What do we want to accomplish by writing about this topic
    (e.g., convey information, persuade policy makers, etc.)?


Drafting is the process of writing down ideas, organizing them into a sequence, and providing the reader with a frame for understanding these ideas. The end result is a composition or "first draft" of the ideas. The following questions might be helpful to students as they compose their first drafts:

  2. What ideas or thoughts will we include?
  3. How will we organize the material?
  4. How will we introduce, develop and conclude our first draft?
  5. What will the title of our article be? (A clever title can help ensure a large readership!)

Research continues to identify many advantages to having students write cooperatively. At the idea stage, multiple perspectives help students explore the topic more extensively. Students working together on a computer often create higher quality drafts with a tighter focus on the topic. The immediate response provided by a writing partner during the composing stage helps students develop their ideas in a coherent way.


Polishing refers to the process of editing and revising based on an evaluation of the writing. It is the hard work that a writer devotes to a piece of writing that is likely to reach a wide audience and serves as a reflection of oneself.

Response or feedback on students' writing can significantly improve the quality of their work. The response can be in the form of a conference with the teacher, but it is also important to encourage peer response, since peers constitute the primary audience. Student response groups can be very helpful in reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of written work.

Students may need help to understand that the revision of an article is a creative step that all professional writers engage in frequently. It is not just correcting a poorly written paper. Writers often go through many revisions before they are satisfied with their work. It is helpful if the teacher can arrange to have a professional writer talk with the class about his or her own process of revision.

The questions that students should ask themselves as they proceed through the polishing stage are:

  1. How can the responses from others improve our paper?
  2. What new ideas do we have for the paper?
  3. What information should we add or delete?
  4. Have we corrected all spelling and grammatical errors?



Copyright © 1997, 2002, Margaret Riel