Friday, May 1, 2009

Rethinking the Writing Process

When I talk with English teachers about how they teach the writing process, they outline various methods of brainstorming and planning and then share samples of graphic organizers. Students are expected to create first drafts (often written by hand, but sometimes typed) and final drafts typed with corrections and improvements. Most English teachers in our school board require students to submit all of their process work with the final product and the process work is assessed as part of the assignment (included on the rubric).

But I don’t write this way. Why would I expect my students to?

I think it is because I can’t imagine or understand the alternative.

When I was in university (the first time) I used the ‘traditional’ writing process, because I didn’t grow up writing on a computer. I was taught how to plan and draft and when I completed that process I booked time in the school’s computer lab. Upon my return to university 6 years later, I typed everything on my PC, but I still had to print copies so I could revise and edit. I couldn’t read my errors on the screen. Now, writing just seems ‘to happen’ on my laptop. I know I am using a process, but it seems fluid and keeps pace with my thoughts. I revise. I move text around, but I don’t think of this as happening in stages or steps. My writing process has changed with technology. As the nature of text has changed, so has the nature of writing.

I’m honestly struggling to envision the teaching of this new writing process.

My questions are:

1. What does your writing process look like?

2. Is it the same as it was ten years ago?

3. What does this mean for English teachers who teach students the writing process?

4. How might we teach this explicitly?

5. How might we model it?


  1. I was thinking about the value of the writing process after our meeting. I understand why we have students submit brainstorming, rough drafts, etc. - our curriculum expectations for writing are looking for this. However, you are right about revising and editing as you go. I have found that the students fake the writing process to get the marks, yet they still revise and edit on the computer.

    One suggestion I can make is the use of Google Docs. It is a great tool for collaborative writing, but it is also excellent in that it tracks the editing history.

  2. I'm now better at collating the information and experiences that will be required in the writing. The organization also comes easier than it did ten years ago.

    When I was in high school, I found it far more difficult to collate and organize.

    Interestingly, sometimes typing on a computer (which I do constantly) allows me to skip parts of the pre-writing process and I find that I've posted material before I've fully considered it.

  3. Kim,
    I am participating in an online discussion at the English Companion Ning about teaching revision. The teachers in the discussion are struggling with the questions you have brought up. I think you are correct that our process has changed due to technology. I do not take a draft grade now because my students just give me something to look at, it is not what they would consider their actual draft. I just started a final paper day, and I have mini-conferences with each student. Then they begin revising. As they revise, I only let students ask me two questions (seems mean), but it has worked. They do not want to blow a question, so they are not asking me how to spell words and other useless questions. They also turn to their peers for help. On that day they complete the writing they have been working on for a final grade, and I just skip the draft.
    This is the link for the EC Ning discussion.


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