Writing tip: Process vs. product

by | Dec 8, 2008 | Reluctant or Struggling Writers, Teaching Homeschool Writing

 Reluctant writer

How many times should a student rewrite a composition? Depends on who you ask. If you ask the student, she’ll emphatically reply, “Once!” Not only that, she wants you to love that paper, slap a gold star on it, and pronounce it stellar. Should you suggest a revision, you’re met with howls of protest.

But in the real world, rough drafts—unpolished writing—go by other names: phone messages, shopping lists, e-mails, timed essays. Chances are, just about anything else that’s printed and published has gone through more than one revision.

Tip 2: Explain that writing is the process and the composition is the product.

Start early. Children as young as kindergarten can discover the simplest steps of planning and writing. They can also learn to make changes such as adding detail or ending a sentence with a period. WriteShop Primary is a great way to introduce your early elementary student to the writing process in the gentlest way.

The benefits for older students are many. Through the writing process, they learn to follow a routine, pace themselves, and become accountable to deadlines. Here’s a brief overview of the five steps.

  • Brainstorming: Thinking through a topic using a graphic organizer or planning tool.
  • Rough draft: Putting words and ideas onto paper without fear of perfection.
  • Self-editing: Using a checklist to identify measurable errors and make simple corrections, and then writing a second draft.
  • Parent editing: Using an objective checklist to suggest improvements to the second draft.
  • Final draft: Polishing the composition so the student can share it proudly.

For students in junior high or high school, you’ll find WriteShop to be one of the most effective tools for teaching the writing process. For beginning and average writers in 7th-10th grades, consider WriteShop I. For students in grades 8-11 who need a bit more challenge, take a look at WriteShop II.

Also see Writing Tip 1: Set Boundaries, Writing Tip 3: Write Often, Writing Tip 4: Wise Feedback Makes a Difference


  1. Donna K

    This was helpful. My daughter seems to think she has to write her assignment once, and it’s done.

  2. Jamie

    “Process vs. Product” provides excellent steps in the process to complete a polished final writing product. We must encourage our children to write, and inform them that it is not a one-step process. All of us must engage in these steps to arrive at a polished piece we can be proud of.

  3. Tammy

    I’m like a kid, too, I guess. I always want writing to take one pass. I guess that’s why I always dread it; it seems like the end product is so far away. Anyway, this is a great reminder. Thanks!

  4. Jen P

    This is one of the hardest thing for my 14yr old. Start writing early! I wish I had pushed a bit harder. Now focusing on “process” to get the product is a bit tougher, but we’re getting it.

  5. Linda

    Reminded me of the writing process – I especially liked the tip of making a check list when self-editing and parent editing. It also reminded me to keep it simple for my young children.

  6. Susan Gibson

    I appreciate your tips and techniques to help me become a better writer. I feel my writing needs polishing.

  7. Rhonda

    all of this is so true, I have difficulty in finding a balance between being truly helpful in helping my child edit and being too critical and taking the joy out of the process.

  8. Thellesa Woodley

    Good info! I can be to critical and often vague in my teaching of writing. Thanks for the info.


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