Learning Center

Writing

Generate More First Drafts than Final Drafts

March 5, 2019

FAQ: How many times a year should students produce a final draft?

ANSWER: The simple answer is that we should walk students through the entire writing process three to four times throughout the school year. However, this response usually generates more questions and requires additional clarification.

You only take 3-4 writing grades all year?!?
No! Although only a handful of writings are “finished,” dozens of pieces are started and taken through the writing of a solid and complete first draft. But, all of the writings–first-drafts only and final drafts–are graded or assessed with a rubric.

Aren’t you supposed to finish/publish every writing assignment?
No! Although executing the writing process is required in the ELA standards, it’s not necessary for every assignment. In fact, the writing standards also state that students should engage in a range of writing experiences; some long and some short (CCSS. W10, IAS W1).

In fact, these one-sitting writings more accurately represent today’s society–not to mention the writing tasks executed in the disciplines and on standardized assessments.

  • Most content-area teachers are not providing time for students to revise. They expect strong first-draft math explanations, chapter summaries, and argumentative essays.
  • Most state and national assessments provide a prompt and a one-sitting writing task. They expect strong first-draft writing responses.
  • Most careers generate correspondence among colleagues, clients, and customers that is written, edited, and published in short time frames. Employers expect strong first-draft written communication.

Isn’t the final draft how we assess mastery of students’ writing skills?!?
Sometimes. Assessing a piece created over the course of multiple days, with peer input and teacher support is not a true measurement of what the individual student can do. Rather, a first draft with no help is a more accurate assessment of his independent level and writing ability.

Although teachers have the autonomy to determine how many pieces students “finish” each school year, consider polishing and finishing a handful of final drafts and offering many more first-draft-only writing situations.

Article originally posted December 17, 2018 and updated in March 2019.

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