So how did calling them Rough Drafts become such a big deal for us?
I noticed my students turning in their rough drafts with all kinds of obvious errors in them (obvious for them, I should clarify), and when I asked them about the errors, they would say, “Well, this is the ROUGH draft, right? We’ll just fix them later.”
It started to bug me. They were almost trying to write drafts that were rough. They weren’t caring about polish and excellence.
But it’s hard for some students to get their first draft done, right? They get sort of paralyzed if we put pressure on them to turn in polished work when they’re just getting their thoughts down. How do we help those kids?
I take a page out of Anne Lamott’s essay, “Shitty First Drafts.” In class, I call them crappy first drafts. Her idea is that everybody’s first draft is crappy…she uses a different word. So the main goal of your first draft is to get your thoughts down on paper. Sure.
So that helps take the pressure off?
Yeah, our first drafts will all be crappy, one way or another. But then she makes a point of saying that we aren’t trying to make crappy drafts…they just are because they’re our first try. But with each draft, we should try to get our best crappy draft. Our best draft possible.
This sounds like a contradiction.
And it is. It's an amazingly helpful, sticky-idea contradiction. So I’ve changed my language from “Rough Draft” to “Best Draft.” When students ask, “When is our rough draft due?” I respond, “We don’t turn in rough drafts. Your best first draft is due on Tuesday.” It really ruffles their feathers, and they get the point. It takes repetition, but they really start to realize that just because it’s our first draft doesn’t mean is has to be rough. And just because they put in the effort to turn in their best first draft, doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. All first drafts require massive revision because they’re crap. But they’re great crap because they’re done! Getting a best draft done is a great success. They need to know both realities.
I don’t want to sugar coat anything for them, but I want them to really grasp both realities.
- First drafts are always crappy and always require massive revision. And
- Doing your best effort on the crappy draft gets you closer to an awesome draft later on.
Conversation of the Day: How do you get your students to turn in their “best drafts” of their essays?
Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.