Writing is not an inherently known skill. This lesson covers five steps in the writing process. It will give you insight on how to teach students to write.
Student Resistance to Writing
Picture this scene: a teacher in front of her class has just announced that the students will be writing a paper. The whole class erupts into cheers of joy as the students excitedly begin to get out pencil and paper. The teacher smiles peacefully then wakes from her day dream to the sound of angry grumbling students begrudgingly preparing for the writing assignment. Oh well, back to reality.
But, why? Why do students resist writing papers so much? Maybe it is because they don’t know how to write.
That is the point of this lesson. Students need to be taught how to write a paper before being asked to complete such a task. This lesson will cover the five steps to writing, using explanations throughout. By teaching your students these steps, you will empower them to be great writers.
Pre-writing is the thought process before writing begins, during which students consider ideas and concepts to write about. Pre-writing helps students investigate their own ideas while they are trying to decide what to write about. Pre-writing gives students the chance to explore their ideas and plan how they are going to address whatever topic they choose.
Longer assignments or formal academic writing assignments may take quite a bit of pre-writing time. Extra time should be taken in the planning stage; maybe involving pre-writing for each segment of a large assignment. Short assignments, such as essays, may take very brief pre-writing times.
Two popular pre-writing activities are:
- Brainstorming where students write down every idea that comes to their head. They then read over all the ideas that have been written to form a formal topic for writing.
- Cluster mapping, also known as concept mapping, involves’a series of connected circles spreading out from a main circle in the middle of the map. The middle circle contains the main idea for the writing assignment, and the connected circles contain ideas connected to that main idea. The student may want to write a paragraph or two about each nodule (or circle idea) that is drawn in the map.
A cluster map of ideas connected to an amusement park.
Good pre-writing participation can lead to a smooth writing experience. If the students spend a lot of time concentrating on their pre-writing exercises, when it is time to write, all the ideas are already on paper and just need to be formatted and placed in the correct order for the paper. Many teachers say that pre-writing is the most important step in the writing process.
Drafting is the first writing of the paper. It can be done from start to finish for some students, while other students may prefer to write sections of their paper out of order.
This is where the pre-writing exercise comes in handy. If a student has done a great job of a cluster map, then all the ideas for the paper are already written down and the student need only develop sentences to match each circle on the map. Students can write out each major point first and then connect them all together in their paper, or they can simply start at the beginning and work their way around the cluster map filling out the ideas with full sentences.
When drafting, students do not need to be overly concerned with grammar or errors. There will be time to go back and correct these mistakes later. The drafting stage is used to get initial ideas from the pre-writing phase into more formal sentence structure. It is the first draft (probably of many) for the formal written assignment.
Revising is the step in the writing process in which students reread their work to see if it makes sense. Sometimes you can think that what you are writing is perfect, and then go back and read it and not understand a word of what you’ve said. Other times, you can realize that your fingers have not recorded all that your brain was thinking as you note large sections of what you missing from the written work. This is exactly what revision is for. Teaching students to reread their work is important. Students may feel that writing it is all that is required, but they must reread their work and revise areas that just don’t work. Students may wish to have someone else read their work at this point to let them know if the ideas work well together.
Editing is different from revising because revising is focused on the overall concepts and how they fit together, while editing is focused on the detail of correct grammar and formatting. Up to this point, students can be encouraged to focus on their ideas in the writing process. If a student gets caught up in trying to ensure that every word is spelled correctly and every comma is used correctly, it may interfere with the creative writing process. By encouraging students to wait until near the end of the writing process to focus on spelling, grammar, and formatting, you give them permission to focus on creating the work before perfecting it.
The editing phase is a perfect time to encourage students to swap their work with other students to assist in the editing process. The art of being able to edit another’s work is helpful to both the student whose work is being edited and the student learning to proof-read (another word for edit).
Finally, the publishing step of the writing process is the step in which the student ensures the work is formatted correctly for their intended audience and submits the final product. There are many different forms of writing and many reasons to write. Each type of writing has a different audience with different expectations for the writing style. By ensuring that the writing suits the end audience in the publishing stage, the student will be setting themselves up for successful writing.
Some types of writing are:
- Blogs – Short, high-interest, personal opinion articles normally about a running theme.
- Journalistic work – Normally short articles filled with factual information designed to pass on details of an event.
- Fiction writing – A work that can be as long as a novel or short as an essay for a magazine publication.
- Academic report – The typical student will need to concentrate on this style of writing. It is formal writing, normally with title page and reference pages added to the main body of the work.
You can see that the intended audience of a piece of writing can make a big difference in the style of writing to be done. The work is completed and submitted in the publishing stage.
In order to be successful at a task, a person must know how to do the task. Students should not be expected to automatically know how to write a paper if they have never been instructed on the steps in the writing process. The writing process includes:
Pre-writing is an important stage involving the general thought process and planning for the entire work. Drafting is the process of writing the work without concern for errors. Revising is going through the work to ensure that it makes sense, while editing is correcting grammatical errors within the work. Teamwork works great in the revising and editing stages. Finally, publishing is formatting the final product appropriately for the intended audience and submitting the work. When students know how to write a paper, they may be more willing to take on such an assignment.