Learning the Writing Process through Sculpting

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SWBAT develop writing through the writing process by practicing the process while sculpting with Play-doh.

Big Idea

Prepare students for the rigor of writing with creative play!

Lesson Explanation


This lesson is adapted from information provided during a Greater Kansas City Writer’s Project retreat.  Before students produce clear and coherent writing (W.9-10.4) and develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing and rewriting (W.9-10.5), they need to know what the steps of the writing process are. Writing is a rigorous task  and I ask students to focus on the process rather than just the end result.  By the end of today’s lesson, students will be able to identify, list and define the steps of the writing process, including plan, draft, revise, confer, edit, publish, and share.   



Warm Up:

3 minutes

Students will enter class and answer the prompt:

Tell me what you know about the writing process. If you don’t know very much, that’s fine, but explain what you do know (W.9-10.10).


Students write for three minutes and we discuss for two.  This sets the tone and introduces students to today's topic.  

Mini Lesson

5 minutes

This is the one lesson where creating the actual product during mini lesson would negate the purpose of the lesson.  Instead, I use the mini lesson to explain to students the purpose of today’s work.  I tell students,

Today’s work requires you to create something with your hands.  While you work, I will be explaining a process to you.  You will need to practice listening to build on your ideas (SL.9-10.1).  From this activity today, you will be able to answer these questions [I write them on the board]: How is a writer like a sculptor? What process does a writer go through to produce a final piece?  What is each step of the writing process?

Student Work Time

30 minutes

Here I am going to share my script with you.  I don't typically write out what I'm going to say in each lesson, but I've been introducing writing in this way for many years and it is one of my favorite days!  This video is a quick explanation of scripting a lesson.  I really get into the reading of this script. I have super high energy and read it enthusiastically.  It is quite over the top.  I want the students to have fun with this and it is okay if they laugh!  Laughter in a classroom is great!

The Script:

Clear your desk and get out your Play-doh and a pencil.  Close your eyes and start working with the dough.  Slowly knead it, trying to memorize what it feels like in your hands.  Experiment with the dough. Press it.  Fold it.  Stretch it.  Just like it’s important that a sculptor spend time with her material before creating, It’s important that a writer spend time with words before writing.  That’s why it’s important to spend time with words reading a variety of books by a variety of authors.  

I am going to ask you to create a pencil holder. Before you begin, I want you to know that your pencil holder will be on display for your peers and for the administration to see.  Just like it’s important for an author to know their audience, it is important for you to know who will see your creation.  

Today, you are creating a pencil holder--something that will hold one or multiple pencils on your desk.  Just like in writing, our first step is to develop ideas, brainstorm and form a beginning draft.  Begin by experimenting with lots of ideas.  Try different shapes and explore different ideas surrounding your pencil holder.  Don’t be afraid to be creative.  I’ll give you a couple of minutes to come up with a preliminary idea.   [I give students three minutes]

Now, destroy your creation.  Yep, smash it.  I know you don’t want to destroy your award winning creation, but it isn’t your best work and you have hundreds of ideas where that came from.  Good. Now, start another design.  This time of planning/presculpting is similar to a writer’s planning stage. It is the time when you’re getting ideas and putting the together in new ways.  Please stop.  Look up.  Someone tell me what our purpose is and who our audience is.  [I wait for a student to explain our purpose is to build a usable pencil holder and our audience is peers and administrator]  You are right.  It’s important to remember that.  It is easy during a long process to become distracted.

Let’s discuss how we are going to judge this sculpture.  What makes the sculpture a success? [I lead students to explain that the holder must hold a pencil without the pencil falling out.  It’s practical.  Perhaps it’s attractive.  I write this criteria on the board].  

Great.  Now that we have a list of criteria and we have brainstormed and planned, let’s draft.  This creation will be your first draft of your final piece.  You have five minutes.  Please work in silence.

Congrats! You’ve finished your first draft, but you’re not done.  Let’s move onto revision.  To truly revise something means to look at it from multiple points of view (W.9-10.5).  Think about your holder from the perspective of the pencil.  If the pencil(s) could give you a review, would they be happy with what you’ve created?  What about an engineer?  How would she tell you to improve your holder?  Think about your parents, or someone else who has good advice.  When you’re writing, you will always want to be revising.  I often revise while I’m typing my final copy because I’m always re-seeing the words on the page.  

Consider how your audience is going to react to your creation.  It’s important for a writer to consider how an audience is going to react to their work.  It’s important for both artists and writers to gain information and feedback from other people.  Please ask your shoulder partner to look at your design. Without prompting your partner, see if they can tell you how your holder is going to work.  Can they describe where the pencil(s) will go?  (SL.9-10.1). Now that you have criticism from a peer, improve your holder.  

Congratulations! You are now ready to begin the final stage--editing.  When writing, a writer looks closely at details like spelling, mechanics, and grammar.  Editing is very detail oriented work.  Critique your holder.  Edit any errors or flaws you see.  Make sure your pencil fits nicely and your holder fulfills its purpose.  

Now, sit back and admire your hard work.  Please grab a post it and give your sculpture a name.  You can be practical, creative or inventive.  You’re ready to publish and present for the world to see.  Feel free to get out your phone, take a picture and tweet it out proudly!  Like writing, this sculpture is meant to be shared and celebrated.  

Closure-Gallery Walk and Clean Up

10 minutes

How many of you have ever been to an art gallery?  Let’s describe it.

Students explain it is as quiet, reserved, and respectful. I write these on the board.

For three minutes, you are taking a gallery walk.  Please pay attention to our gallery norms while you walk around the room, observing your classmates’ sculptures.  The administration and/or other teachers are going to stop by and observe them as well.  


Before students leave, we spend a few minutes cleaning up!