• Prewriting isn’t something we do as a matter of course. Sometimes we prewrite and sometimes we don’t; in some cases the prewriting may even be largely invisible.
  • Prewriting consists of a variety of strategies that writers choose and use to accomplish specific needs in their writing process. These strategies are often connected to genre.
  • In addition to helping select and focus a topic, prewriting can help writers decide where they need further inquiry and how to organize the ideas they have,
  • Students are less likely to use effective prewriting strategies if they don’t value the writing that follows it.
  • Prewriting may, in some cases, become a way to put off writing. It should not be used in that way but should, instead, move writers toward writing.

Further Reading:

An excellent source for prewriting activities
Offers solutions to student note-taking difficulties by providing a variety of note-taking organizers which help writers delineate a piece of writing

Supplemental Materials:

Pre-writing for The Crucible

Arguing vs. Argument

Brainstorming for Survival Flyer


Discussion Web

Explode the Moment

Exploring Argument Writing

Faculty Interview Questions


Narrative Models

Picture Book Storyboard

Picture Book Plot Planning

Planning Graphic Organizer

Student Interview For Survival Flyer

Surviving vs. Succeeding


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In the 1960s and 1970s, teachers began encouraging a lot more prewriting . At that time, free writing and brainstorming replaced outlining in most classes as the primary prewriting activities that teachers expected students to use. Free writing helped writers access key ideas of what they already knew about the topic; in a different way, brainstorming did something similar by encouraging writers to make connections among similar known ideas. Both practices dealt with ideas, whereas outlining had focused more on organizing the writing that would follow.

  • What kinds of prewriting do you do as a writer or do you ask your students to do, and what aspects of the writing is it more likely to encourage?

In the chapter, one researcher will tell us that anything that comes before writing counts as prewriting.

  • Before you begin reading the chapter, make a list of all the activities that might count as prewriting, given that definition.

“Writing grows out of some need or some place. We write because we are asked to do so, or because writing will help us do something we want done. So, prewriting begins in a situation” (110).

  • Consider how your own prewriting represents this concept. How can you see your own use of prewriting as situated? What implications, then, exist for using prewriting more effectively in the classroom, in a situation where students may not always be writing for or in situations of their own choosing? How can our selection and use of prewriting strategies help students in our classes understand this important concept about prewriting?

A big part of developing the appropriate prewriting attitudes and skills requires teachers to choose the specific prewriting strategies that work for the writings tasks students are completing, the chapter lists some categories with matching strategies, but it doesn’t provide an exhaustive list.

  • After reviewing the examples in the chapter and analyzing how they fit their purposes, develop several more prewriting strategies that could fit a variety of needed purposes.

Either alone or with a partner, write a poem for two voices that represents a teacher’s view of prewriting against a student’s.

  • What did the exercise help you realize about prewriting and the challenges of implementing it effectively in the classroom?

What writing will your students be working on next? What aspects of that writing would benefit most from prewriting? Instead of using some random prewriting strategy, which prewriting strategies would best suit the needs for your students and this particular writing task?

In order to use prewriting as it should be used, students need to have repeated experiences that show them the value of their prewriting. What can you do to provide those kinds of validating experiences?