Parry and Hornsby on Conference Writing

Writing is a process. We don’t need to refer to a ‘process approach’ to writing: the terminology is redundant. By referring to a ‘process approach’ there is the possible inference that it is a particular ‘method’ of teaching writing or that there is a set procedure or series of steps to follow. When children write, they are involved in a process whether teachers recognize it or not.

The flowchart following is an attempt to organize the elements of writing which need to be considered and where writers may need help. It is not to be interpreted as a blueprint for procedural steps that every child will follow.

The elements are integral to writing. However, they are not always overtly demonstrated or observed, even when they are taking place in the classroom. For example, many aspects of rehearsal occur outside the classroom. This happens with all writers, including adults. …

Other elements of the writing process will also go unnoticed. Revisions may be made away from the writing (away from the pen and paper). What needs to be understood clearly is that:

  • rehearsal (pre-writing) is not necessarily ‘Draft 1′;
  • writing (drafting/revising) is not necessarily ‘Draft 2′.
  • post-writing/publishing is not the ‘good copy’ or the second draft simply re-written in the writer’s best handwriting.

There is not a set number of drafts; there is not a recipe to follow. Drafting is not synonymous with re-writing. To re-draft, the writer does nor necessarily have to re-write. Three or four drafts may be seen on the one piece of paper.

Revision, or ‘re-seeing’ a piece of writing, is often required, but there are also occasions when little or no revision takes place. If a child has a topic that is really working well, little change may be needed. A child in the first year of school will rarely revise. ‘Just the miracle of putting down information in words is sufficient to fulfill their intentions.’ Sometimes, the topic itself is not worth pursuing and the writer will not waste time revising.

Teachers need to look at each individual writer, and what’s more, each writer will demonstrate different writing behaviours with different writing tasks. A writer may work through several drafts on one piece, but in the very next piece, may only write one draft before it is ready to be ‘published’.

The Writing Process


  • idea or incubation
  • Perhaps I could write about that?

Rehearsal (pre-writing)

  • discussing
  • interviewing
  • researching
  • note-taking
  • scribbling
  • constructing
  • drawing

Language activities

  • Nature of activity is determined by need of the writers, at the time, or the Teacher’s Weekly Focus. Across-the-curriculum activities such as drama, poetry, discussion, music, teacher writing/ modelling.


  • reductive/rough
  • drafting
  • revising (adding, deleting, re-ordering, re-seeing)
  • editing
  • rewriting
  • proofing
  • substance/polished


  • Nature and focus of conference changes with the age of the children, their stage as writers and the number of their draft. Emphasis is always on what the writer has to say. The teacher’s role is that of active listener.

Small teaching groups

  • These deal with the mechanics of writing such as punctuation and grammar, or other special issues as they arise. Small-teaching groups are held when the need is demonstrated by the writers or their work.


  • appropriate format despatched to readers

Audience feedback

  • a response that is conveyed to the writer

Publishing (Sharing)

  • book production
  • exhibitions
  • oral
  • display

Parry, Jo-Ann and David Hornsby. 1985. Write On: A Conference Approach to Writing. Sydney: Martin Educational, pp.5-7.