This term was first used (I think) by Lucy Calkins. No surprise there!! Lucy refers to flash drafting as "fast and furious" writing that is done in one writing session, rather than across several days. It is also done prior to any planning or outlining. Basically, students just open their notebooks and start writing. They don't plan. They don't revise. They don't edit. They just write.
WHY FLASH DRAFT?1. It improves writing fluency! So often, I see students struggle to get started on writing. They sit there with their chin propped on their hands, staring at the ceiling waiting for the right moment to put pencil to paper. We ask them why they are not writing and they tell us they don't know what to write, or say they are just thinking about what to write. But writers don't think about writing...they write! A lot!! All the time!! Flash drafting is a way of getting your students writing....without having to think a lot, or even knowing what they will write. It can be an effective cure for writer's block! Its not easy to get students into this habit though, especially if you are working with third or fourth graders who have been allowed to sit and do nothing during writer's workshop. You will need to model the practice by writing in front of your students, daily or weekly. So, YOU will need to practice flash drafting too! You will be surprised at how ideas begin to flow better, once you start writing.
2. It encourages revision! It is important that flash drafting be done in one writing period...no more! Students are much less likely to want to spend time revising their writing when they have spent days drafting. They are too invested in their piece to want to make changes. When they've spent only a short amount of time on a flash draft, revision takes on a whole new meaning and becomes a true part of the writing process, rather than "that thing that we do when we finish a piece". The flash draft becomes the starting point for planning, outlining and revision.
3. It encourages students to take risks! When I ask my students to "flash draft" I remind them that they are to write, write, write without stopping (fast and furious). The idea is to get their ideas down on the page, without worrying about getting it perfect. I say, "Just start writing....and see where your pencil takes you!" They know that they will be given the opportunity to work on the draft more, perfecting it, and making it exactly the way they want it later. This is just a first step. When students have the freedom to just write without worry of getting it right the first time...that is when their creativity flows and they begin to see themselves as real writers!
WHEN TO FLASH DRAFT?At the beginning of a unit is a great time to have students flash draft. It is a perfect compliment to immersions lessons that you might do prior to starting a new writing unit (more information about immersion using mentor texts HERE). I like to spend a week or so reading and discussing a few different mentor texts prior to starting a unit, having students examine the structure and elements of the writing type (i.e. personal narrative, persuasive essay, informational, etc.). During this phase I have students take out their writer's notebooks and "take a stab" at the text type by flash drafting. By the end of this immersion phase we will have looked at 3 or more mentor texts and they might have written 3 or more flash drafts to get them started. Then when you begin the actual lessons in your unit, they will use their flash drafts as a starting point. It is a risk-free way to let them have a go at it!
Another great time to use flash drafting is when students are stuck. Have them begin again by writing a flash draft. It is a quick and easy way of getting them writing again by wiping the slate clean and starting with a fresh idea.
WHERE TO FLASH DRAFT?I like to have students do their flash drafting in their writer's notebooks. You could also have your students use loose leaf paper and keep the drafts in a binder. Some teachers like to use yellow legal pads for flash drafting. Do what works best for you and your students!
HOW TO GET STARTEDA great way to start is by doing it yourself! Great writing teachers write themselves! I truly believe that you need to experience the writing process and all of the angst that goes with it in order to effectively teach your students. So go out and buy yourself a writer's notebook and start writing (there are lots of digital notebook apps out there too). Summer is a great time to get started on flash drafting. By the time your school year starts up, you will have some examples to share with your students and some great pointers for them as well!
Make sure that you MODEL flash drafting! This is sooooo hard to do, but sit down in front of your students, without a solid idea of what you will write and just start writing. Talk aloud as you write, sharing what is happening inside your head. This is magical for students and helps them to understand the thought process involved in writing. I think that piece is missing for many young writers....they don't understand how a writer gets their idea from their brain onto the page. At first you will think...oh my gosh, this is taking up so much time. But hang in there, it will get easier and you will see a difference in your students by investing the time! Sometimes, this can be more of a shared writing....where your students help by adding their ideas.
Just like anything else you teach....it must be used and taught consistently. You can't expect to teach them how to flash draft ONCE at the beginning of the school year, and think they are going to run with it. It needs to be taught, modeled, practiced, again and again and again all throughout the school year! It needs to become part of their writing conversations with you and with their peers. The payoff is so huge.....confident writers...writer's that take risks...writers that revise....writers that write a lot and love it!!
READ MOREIf you are interested in reading more here are some great blog posts to check out:
The Power of Flash Drafting: More Writing, Less Thinking at Moving Writers
Flash Drafting Leads to Large Scale Revision at Two Writing Teachers
Here is a video clip where LUCY CALKINS talks about flash drafting as a strategy.
I also have to plug Aimee Buckner's book (again)...it is the best book on how to effectively use writer's notebooks with your students!
Here are some products that I have created that might also be helpful:
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I hope you find this post helpful. I am planning to create a series of videos this fall that will highlight how to use mentor texts and flash drafting with young writers! So stay tuned and keep writing!!