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I was thrown off balance when a Head of Middle School showed me a neatly laminated 3′ x 2′ poster that may or may not have been titled “The Writing Process” and asked me for my thoughts. The reason I forget is significant: the poster was forgettable- not the least bit sticky. Well I lied, I remember the green border and the green tiger separated with its own palatial blank white territory. They had nothing to do with the writing process.

He said the school was standardizing the writing process and would be hanging these posters in all the classrooms. I’m not sure who designed the poster, but I don’t think it was a writer. My mind streamed with improvements that could be made-

Problems with the Poster

  • There are not always¬† 5 steps (brainstorm, outline, draft, edit, final composition) in the writing process
  • People use different processes
  • The process is not linear and neat like a list
  • Lacked relevant and inspiring visuals
  • Font all the same style and color, nothing pops
  • A poster does not teach a person to write
  • It wasn’t student-centered and created


  • Create a project for students, perhaps a unit “Writing Processes”
  • Students research writing processes, e.g., writing processes used by favorite or notable author; writing processes used by self and friends; improvements they would make, and present to class and perhaps school
  • Create a board in the classroom for Writing Tools and Processes, students can post and organize ideas
  • Address the writing processes they used for this project and how they figured out how to do it, e.g., trial and error, experience, tips, Internet, books, teacher, friends, parents

In Teaching The Best Practice Way:Teaching The Best Practice Way: Methods That Matter, K-12 by Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar, Franki Sibberson discusses a method for organizing thinking tools, i.e., metacognitive reading strategies. What sets his method apart is that he considers students perspectives and individual needs. In addition to asking what tools we need to help us understand text and other phenomenon more deeply, he asks, “Which tools work best for you? Which tools work best for your classmates? Which tools cause problems? Which tools are right for which purposes?” (1333 – 1339)

To support student tool use he created a board in the classroom called “Tools for Thinking.” He says, “The board starts out blank, but as I conference with kids and meet with small groups, I monitor the use of tools and suggest that students share new tools as they emerge” and “[t]he board helps students to see that I want them to use and design tools that work to help them understand their reading.” (1354 – 1360)

The board also serves as a way to assess student use of strategies. Students share a variety of tools, e.g., use of charts to organize information, sticky notes to record emotions- each different color is a separate emotion, ways to track and process ideas.