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Puff up the pre-write

march 12, 2024

Students often grasp the idea of turning pre-writes into drafts but lack the skills to do it effectively. They need to learn how to “puff up” their pre-writes.

Think of a pre-write like a vacuum-sealed bag that squeezes out the air from clothes, compressing them to a fraction of their size. Likewise, a pre-write represents a lot of information packed tightly into a list of details.

When ripping open a vacuum-sealed bag, the compressed clothes “grow” to their full size. Similarly, “opening” a pre-write should also result in individual words “growing” into sentences and paragraphs. The challenge lies in teaching students how to “open up” each compact detail and expand it into multiple sentences.

Teach students how to puff up any pre-write by…

  • Demonstrating this concept once during the lesson with a vacuum-sealed bag or replay a short video clip to demonstrate it several times. Consider including hand gestures and noises to represent the sccchlup sucking down of the contents in the bag and the paahhhh puffing up of the ideas in the first draft.
  • Selecting a single detail from a pre-write list or graphic organizer, reminding yourself that this word or phrase represents the sccchlup sucked-down version of several sentences.
  • Thinking aloud about examples, evidence, scenarios, descriptions, perspectives, and information that detail represents.
  • Modeling how to stretch each puffed-up thought into a complete sentence, writing it as you think of it.

Step 1: Introduce

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

Emphasize within your modeling that there is think time between reading the detail on the pre-write and writing/typing the sentences about it. Acknowledge that some students think faster than they write and consequently need to puff up details more slowly to give themselves a chance to write each one down.

Instruct students not to look back at the pre-write for a second new detail until their minds have exhausted all that they know about the first one. Reiterate that the goal is to “grow” each pre-write detail to many, many sentences.

After direct instruction and modeling, provide students opportunities to practice with this skill with different pre-writing organizers in various writing units.

  • Puff-up a T-Chart into a compare-contrast first draft.
  • Puff up a Dissected Web into an informative first draft.
  • Puff-up a Storyboard into a chronological or narrative first draft.
  • Puff up a What-and-Why organizer into a persuasive/argumentative first draft.
Train students’ brains to see pre-writes as tightly-packed lists that need to be opened up and puffed up into bigger, richer first drafts.
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