Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prototype: Should Teachers Refer to First-Draft Writing as Prototypes Rather than Rough-Drafts? #AtoZChallenge Letter P #SOL16

During April I'm participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.
Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a
letter of the alphabet with the goal of writing 26 posts.
April is also National Poetry Month.

Each Tuesday the Two Writing Teachers
Blog Sponsors Slice of Life Story Challenge.
Head on Over for More Slices
Last week my students participated in The Marshmallow Challenge.

For those unfamiliar with the Marshmallow Challenge, it is an activity that requires students to work together to create a free-standing tower using 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and one marshmallow, which must be placed on top.

After students built their structures, we had a gallery walk to admire their architectural and construction skills. We then discussed the challenges of the challenge and how working together either helps or hinders students in their efforts.

Finally, we watch the TED talk about the Marshmallow Challenge.

Listening to Tom Wujec's speech this time, I noticed his discussion of prototypes. Wujec explains that groups who build a prototype and learn what works and what needs tweaked through constructing the prototype build a much taller structure the second time. 

We English teachers try to articulate the importance of constructing multiple drafts of papers. We emphasize the recursive nature of writing. I wander what would happen if we changed our verbiage and began speaking about writing prototypes rather than drafts. 

Architects build prototypes as models for future construction. Yet the architect uses the prototype to discover what to model in later versions. Yes, a prototype is copied, but it also provides feedback about necessary changes. 

Architects take prototype construction seriously because they don't see them as practice rounds, which students often do when composing a paper. 

I shared my thoughts with students, but these ideas are new to me. I need to flesh them out. I need to construct a prototype of this pedagogy. 


  1. I find this idea very interesting. And while the choice of words is important, I'm not sure if prototype vs. rough draft really makes a difference. I think it's all in how you sell it. A rough draft could be compared to a piece of furniture a carpenter makes and sanding off the rough edges to make something beautiful. Yes, the meaning is not quite as developed as with architect, but in practicality I don't think it would make much difference.

    However, it will be interesting to see how the prototype idea actually works in the classroom. The fact that you are considering this idea to inspire and motivate your students tells me that you are a good teacher and will do that no matter what method or word you are using.

    1. Thank you. If you haven't seen the video, take a look. I'm not sure why it didn't post w/ the original one I had scheduled.

      Anyway, "rough draft" is one of those terms that is couched w/ ambiguity and history for students, which is one reason why I'm thinking about new terms for first-draft writing.

  2. The idea of working on a prototype rather than a rough draft is quite interesting. It is worthy of thinking about this kind of terminology change.

  3. That is a very interesting concept, and such a new way of looking at a first draft, it's tough to wrap my brain around. As a writer, how would that switch change my approach? I wonder if it would prove freeing, as prototypes not only have permission to fail, they're not intended to do anything else.

    There is always such a reaching for perfection in writing, even when we know it will take many, many laps. Calling the first draft a prototype could really relieve that pressure.

    Its an innovative idea.

    A Bit to Read

  4. This is an interesting shift in thinking - an important one, I think.

  5. This is an interesting shift in thinking - an important one, I think.

  6. It's an interesting idea, worth pursuing.