The Writing Process: Step 5 "The First Pass at This Thing"
Since writing is a process, your homeschool student (or any other high school writer) should have completed four steps BEFORE attempting a first draft of the assignment. If you haven't yet read about Step 1 "Ideas," Step 2 "The Plan," Step 3 "Support," and Step 4 "Articulation," click the links to get yourself ready for Step 5!
Many students do not understand that writing is a complex PROCESS, and they become easily frustrated because they try to grab paper and pencil and "get the answer right" on their first attempt at a writing assignment.
Once a student has arrived at Step 5, it's time for The First Pass at This Thing.
Here's my vlog that explains this step:
Many teachers are fans of outlining before a student goes any further. Can I tell you a secret? I can take or leave outlining for shorter assignments. I think it's an important skill to LEARN but not always a tool that must be used. (When it comes to longer papers, and certainly to research writing, outlining is vitally important....I'm referring to essays and the like in these posts.)
Outlining in traditional format appeals to certain types of learners. The visual types who like organization and remember to shut their sock drawer every morning usually love outlining. They like the alternating Roman numerals and Arabic numerals. They like to keep their indents even. The outline itself feels like a work of creation to them.
But there are other types of learners; the types who don't really retain something until they've jumped off a cliff into an experience with it (and who have trouble remembering to wear socks at all) usually hate outlining. They need their plan for writing just like anyone else, but they have that plan already in the thinking process they've completed and the notes they've jotted on scrap paper. Stopping now to make an outline with even indents and alternating numerals will KILL the brain-flow for them.
So if your student understands the format for traditional outlining and finds it helpful, have 'em make an outline, even for a short paper. If your student says, "Oh, please! Don't make me make an outline for this! I'm on a roll!" let them try it without an outline.
Step 5 - The First Pass at This Thing means remembering what you've done thus far (what are the ideas? what voice have I chosen? what key pieces of support did I choose?) and starting with that beautiful, solid thesis statement from Step 4 "Articulation," they begin to write.
Remind them AGAIN that they are NOT writing their final paper, they are taking the next STEP in the process. Remind them AGAIN that they will not have a completed, fabulous piece of writing when they are done. Remind them by encouraging them to write on scrap paper if they are writing by hand instead of typing. Remind them by having them type the word "DRAFT" into their file name if they are working on the computer. And let them write.
Let it ramble. They should keep referring back to their support notes and their thesis statement each time they begin a new paragraph, but other than that, let them go. It's so important NOT to censor at this point in the process. Remind YOURSELF, mom, that they will NOT have a completed, fabulous piece of writing when they are done with this step. They will simply have completed Step 5 "The First Pass at This Thing." There will be plenty of time to edit and revise, to rearrange entire chunks of writing later.
If the first 4 steps were done, and if you give them freedom to ramble at this point, you will likely encounter very little, "But I don't know what to write!" moaning in your school room. You are on your way!
How do you feel about outlining? Why?
Essay writing is important.
Whether a high school student is preparing to take the SAT, or whether that student isn't even thinking about college at all, essay writing using a solid understanding of the writing process hones critical thinking skills that help in REAL LIFE.