Achieving Civic Competence through a DRAFT Writing Process

Nancy P. Gallavan
Why is it that you can sometimes feel the reality of people more keenly through a letter than face to face?
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh1

National Council for the Social Studies advocates "integrating the study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence."2 Some elementary school teachers who subscribe to the standards are creating transdisciplinary lessons that infuse social studies themes across the curriculum.3 Others are applying the concept of curricular theme immersion to provide a sense of direction in carrying out mandated state and school district curricula.4 The increasing use of children's literature, technology, and the expressive and fine arts is further evidence that teachers are enriching their social studies instructional strategies.5 Yet, as teachers strive to design relevant learning experiences, they frequently assign conventional writing activities that stifle their students' newly-acquired knowledge and awareness. Engaging lessons may culminate sadly with requirements to define vocabulary, answer sets of textbook questions, or write one more report. What starts as an energizing immersion in the learning process ends with the traditional writing assignments that social studies students have dreaded for years.6

Writing is a process that links all of our thinking, reading, listening, and speaking; we write to learn. In social studies, students learn best when the writing process is organized and developed by the individual before being shared among peers.7 Students benefit from the teacher's guidance in formulating questions to serve as catalysts for seeking more information. Effective elementary school teachers capitalize on these learning opportunities as students begin to actively construct their own values and meanings-essential steps toward a more powerful understanding of the world around them.8

The DRAFT Writing Framework
One writing process that authentically bridges social studies with critical thinking, problem solving, and risk taking is called DRAFT (Design, Role, Audience, Format, and Topic). DRAFT offers students a framework for designing writing projects that can be transformed easily into models promoting social action outcomes. The DRAFT writing framework allows students to personalize their learning and to express themselves naturally through formats that fit their own learning styles and needs. Students pursue and refine their individual interests, and then share their finished products with one another. The sharing process often activates further student attention and curiosity.9 Through this writing process, students not only teach themselves, but inform one another.10

The DRAFT writing framework can be integrated into any curricular planning that makes genuine connections with learning. Readily modified to accommodate all ages, stages, and developmental levels of the students involved, DRAFT provides students with a method for aligning their knowledge and thinking within the writing process. Students generally find their ideas challenged and their interest intensified as they begin to organize and create their individual writing projects.11

Vital to the framework's success are the interactions between students and teachers. Teachers must restructure their traditional roles as classroom managers and conduct themselves more as process facilitators while they support their writers. Students often appreciate this newly-acquired freedom, combined with the responsibilities awarded to them, as they supervise and generate their own writing process. The self-empowerment experienced in using the DRAFT framework transfers easily and naturally to other areas of the curriculum.12

Table 1 illustrates the DRAFT framework and terminology, whose elements are more fully described as follows:

Table 2 contains examples of one classroom's experience with DRAFT used in a fifth-grade social studies curriculum focusing on the Mississippi River. Each student in the class DRAFTed a unique writing design.

Transforming DRAFT into Civic Competence
Citizenship education consists of students applying their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values to establishing direct involvement and personal responsibility within their community (local to global) and within some real context.14 The DRAFT writing framework promotes opportunities for producing meaningful and authentic social action outcomes. Students exploring any topic or issue-such as community safety, pollution, or the location of a new park-can investigate and articulate their informed viewpoints via letters submitted to the editor of the local newspaper, speeches delivered at local venues, poems sent to elected officials, and so forth. When students recognize the importance of using their own in-depth knowledge to inform decision making, the result is a strong sense of personal efficacy for both today and the future.15

1.F. Siccone, Celebrating Diversity: Building Self-esteem in Today's Multicultural Classrooms (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1995).
2.National Council for the Social Studies, Expectations of Excellence; Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (Washington, DC: Author, 1994).
3.R. Brandt, "On Interdisciplinary Curriculum: A Conversation with Heidi Hayes Jacobs," Educational Leadership, 49, 2 (1991): 24-26; S. M. Drake, Planning Integrated Curriculum: the Call to Adventure (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993); G. W. Maxim, Social Studies and the Elementary School Child, 5th ed. (New York: Merrill, 1995).
4.S. B. Kucer, C. Silva, and E. L. Delgado-Larocco, Curricular Conversations: Themes in Multilingual and Monolingual Classrooms (York, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1995); M. Manning, G. Manning, and R. B. Long, Theme Immersion; Inquiry-based Curriculum in Elementary and Middle Schools (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1994).
5.J. R. Chapin and R. G. Messick, Elementary Social Studies: A Practical Guide, 3rd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers, 1996); K. A. Young, Constructing Buildings, Bridges & Minds: Building an Integrated Curriculum through Social Studies (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1994).
6. V. Atwood, ed., Elementary School Social Studies: Research as a Guide to Practice (Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies, 1991);
J. Jarolimek and W. C. Parker, Social Studies in Elementary Education, 9th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1993).
7. J. Brophy and J. Alleman, Powerful Social Studies for Elementary Students (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996); P. L. Roberts, Integrating Language Arts and Social Studies (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996).
8. C. Lauritzen and M. Jaeger, "Language Arts Teacher Education within a Transdisciplinary Curriculum," Language Arts 71, 8 (1994): 581-587; NCSS (1994).
9. R. Strong, H. F. Silver and A. Robinson, "What Do Students Want (and What Really Motivates Them)?," Educational Leadership 53, 1 (1995): 8-12.
10.D. E. Freeman and Y. S. Freeman, "'Doing' Social Studies: Whole Language Lessons to Promote Social Action," Social Education 55,1 (1991): 29-32; G. J. Brooks and M. G. Brooks, M. G. (1993). In Search of Understanding: The case for Constructivist Classrooms (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993); C. S. Sunal and M. E. Haas, Social Studies and the Elementary/Middle School Student (Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1993).
11.T. Armstrong, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (Washington, DC: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1994); K. Barclay, C. Benelli, P. Campbell, and L. Kleine, "Dream or Nightmare? Planning for a Year Without Textbooks," Childhood Education 71, 4 (1993): 205-211; Roberts.
12.Lauritzen and Jaeger.
13.W. Parker, "Common Pitfalls in Curriculum Planning," Social Studies and the Young Learner 5, 3 (1993): 3-4.
14.National Council for the Social Studies, Social Studies Curriculum Planning Resources (Washington, DC: Author, 1990); J. M. Palmer, "Planning Wheels Turn Curriculum Around," Educational Leadership 49, 2 (1991): 57-60.
15.Chapin & Messick.

About the Author
Nancy P. Gallavan is an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She teaches elementary school social studies methods and multicultural education courses, and is a member of the NCSS Teacher Development Committee.