Last year, I decided to take a stab at writing a children’s fiction book. Having never written fiction before, I was apprehensive to let anyone see it. Completely confident in her expertise, I went back to Ann and showed her the first draft. After reviewing it—and giving me a lot of notes—she asked me something strange.
“Can I read it with my students?”
I wasn’t sure about this. It was only the first draft, and I needed to implement the necessary changes.
“I know,” she replied, “but I think it would be amazing to have the kids watch the writing process happen in real life. We teach the writing process, but kids don’t really understand that writers use it too. They think authors write something and it’s finished, so that’s all they have to do. I try to explain that writing is a long process, but students have never seen it outside of a few student examples in writing textbooks or lessons.”
It was an interesting idea, and I knew I had to agree. The next day, she gave her students the first draft, and made sure they understood what a first draft is. They read it, gave Ann some notes to share with me, and generally agreed it was “okay.”
Using their notes, I wrote another draft and sent it back. She read it with her class again, and they were excited to see the changes I had made.
“It was amazing,” said Ann. “They could see all the places where you changed the plot and characters and added more description. They loved it.”
Of course, there were more notes, and I was surprised at their detail. They even found a few typos! I started the revision process yet again, added in their notes, and sent another draft to Ann.
The kids were really eager now and couldn’t wait to see how the story was coming to life. Taking their work one step further, they suggested titles for my chapters and ideas for illustrations. They even had an idea for the next book, wanting me to develop this idea into a series. I made some more changes, used their chapter titles, and sent it off again.
The process was so much fun—and Ann and her kids were such a huge help—that it really made me think. Why can’t we do this for all students? We could develop a series of leveled readers that goes through the entire writing process. The first book would be the rough draft, and upon finishing it, students could make suggestions of what they would change. The next book would be the second draft where students could see what the author changed, see if any of their suggestions were used, and then make more suggestions. The third book would be the finished product. Students would see the writing process “live” and truly understand how revising and editing several times improves any type of writing. I truly believe it would help students become better writers by being a part of the writing process and truly understanding what a real author does.
To learn more about CSA Education’s work with guided readers, please email us at in**@cs****.com.