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Understanding the Pre-Write Component of the Writing Process

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/18/2014

When assigned a writing task, many students hurriedly pick up their pens, smooth their notebook paper, and begin writing. Often, little to no planning is involved and their work usually reflects their lack of preparation. By teaching students how to pre-write, their writing will improve over time.

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    Before starting the pre-write it is important that your students know exactly what you will be looking for when assessing their writing. pencil cup For this reason, it is better to give them the rubric you will use for assessment before you even begin writing the pre-write. Discuss it with them and answer any questions they may have. After you have done this, your students are ready to put pen to paper.

    Generally speaking, when students complete a pre-write they are simply preparing a plan-of-action before actually writing a draft. When they spend a little time up-front planning their writing, it improves.

    One argument many students voice when assigned pre-writing is the amount of time involved. Many view it as a complete waste. You can counter this argument by explaining that the time spent planning will mean less time spent writing the rough draft.

    Pre-writes can be basic or they can be complex.The amount of detail required is up to you and will depend on the type of writing.

    Many teachers and students are familiar with the basic web approach to pre-writing. The central topic is placed in a bubble in the center of a piece of paper and lines are drawn reaching out to other bubbles that clarify and provide details about the topic. Students can go back and use this to organize their rough draft.

    You may opt to use a more complex pre-write that requires more detail. An outline approach works well, but many students balk at the idea of writing one. You can get away from the more traditional outline format, while still using the general idea, by simply changing the way the work is presented. Have students draw four or five boxes on a page. Each box represents a paragraph. There should be a topic sentence and three to five details in each box. When they write their rough draft, much of the information they need is in their pre-write. This is the same general idea as an outline, but since the format is less formal, it is less intimidating to students.

    Stress to your students that there is no need for pre-writes to be perfect and they are plans that can be changed. Pre-writes assist writers in organizing and planning a piece of writing. They do not have to contain perfect grammar (that is for the final draft) and should be viewed as a tool for improvement.

    If you want students to take this part of the writing process seriously, then be sure to give students credit for completing it. It could even count as a portion of their final grade on the writing assignment. As always, be sure to model what you expect from your students. If you simply assign pre-writing without giving students an idea of what you expect, they will probably not be very successful. However, the opposite is also true. With specific guidelines and expectations, your students will flourish.

The Writing Process

In this five part series, the five steps of the writing process will be addressed. Pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing will be explained and tips given as to the best ways to teach each step.
  1. Understanding the Pre-Write Component of the Writing Process
  2. The Writing Process: Writing a Rough Draft
  3. The Writing Process : Revision Lesson Plan
  4. Middle School Lesson on the Writing Process: How to Edit
  5. The Writing Process: The Final Draft & Publishing