Flash Drafts!

by Michael Porter
Writing is one of the most important proficiencies to master. Learning to express yourself clearly, and in a way that is interesting for others to read, is a necessary life skill.
The 5th graders in Ms. Kate Pleasants' writing class are working hard on their personal narrative stories. Upon entering her classroom, the loudest thing you will hear is ball point pens rolling across paper -- and perhaps the wheels turning in the students' heads as they concentrate on their work!
On this particular morning, the students were working on "flash drafts".
 "Flash drafts are more of a stream of conscious flow," said Ms. Pleasants. "It's a way for students to get their ideas onto paper without worrying about the writing being perfect."

Each student writes at least two flash drafts, with each version told differently. They may start their story earlier or later, tell their story in a different order, or retell it to emphasize a different lesson.
They may choose to either keep one flash draft to revise or combine their drafts and revise the combination.

The flash drafts are a low-stress way of just getting words on paper. Some writers find this to be the hardest step. 
Ms. Pleasants encourages the students to find a comfortable spot in the classroom to work. Several students elected to remain at their desks. Others grabbed a small lap desk and sat on the sofa or Papasan chairs. A few found a cozy spot on the floor or under a table!

As many (probably most) writers will tell you, it is the revising and rewriting that makes a good story a great story. Ms. Pleasants has one suggested revision strategy that many students are practicing -- sticky notes!
As they steadily churn out the words for their flash draft, if anything occurs to them that they want to change, or if they wish to insert a story point, they can write it on a sticky note and paste it in the appropriate spot. This gives them a visual reminder of what to incorporate into their second draft. 

"I allow students to find a revision strategy that works best for them," Ms. Pleasants noted. "I will highlight the strategies of different students in order to allow them to see various options." 
As the students work, Ms. Pleasants circulates around the room to check on their progress and to answer questions.
Spelling and grammar are not the most important aspects at this point. The goal is to get their ideas on paper. The mechanical issues can be taken care of in subsequent drafts.

Ms. Pleasants will have the students engage in peer review as part of the revision and editing process. Having another set of eyes check your work can be scary, but it's a great way to get a fresh viewpoint on your creation, and get suggestions or find small errors that otherwise would be missed.
The students are looking forward to finishing up this unit.
"Students will have a publishing party where they will read their stories to a small group of peers," said Ms. Pleasants.