Approaches to Teaching Writing: Process Writing

Process writing, as the name suggests, focuses on the process of writing rather than on the final product. This involves teaching students about the stages involved in writing; i.e. the process. The aim is to help students see each stage as being important and to dedicate time to each of them. The teacher’s role is to guide students through the stages one uses when writing. The stages are: Brainstorming and noting down any ideas connected to the topic. Deciding from the brainstormed list which ideas are the most relevant to the topic, task or title. Deciding which order to put those ideas in. This can be done in the form of a plan or a mind map. Preparation of the first draft; the focus at this stage is organization of the piece of writing. This doesn’t mean that grammar and accuracy are not important; it just means that they are not the focus at this stage.

Revision and editing of drafts, focusing initially on content, relevance and organization. Then moving onto correcting grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and linkers. The final stage is the production of a finished piece of work. To raise awareness in students of thestages of writing, the teacher can brainstorm the steps with students. Alternatively, the teacher can present them with the list above and ask for their comments on it. Finally, the teacher could give them the list above, jumbled up and ask them to put the stages in order.

The teacher can guide students through the stages by:
·                    Brainstorming: write the topic/title on the board and invite students to say anything at all connected to the topic. Anything and everything is acceptable at this stage; accept all ideas and comments.

·                    Go through the brainstormed items and decide which are the most relevant to the topic and the most interesting. This can be done as a whole class, in groups or in pairs. If the teacher does this as a whole class, all the students’ essays will have the same content. If the teacher chooses to do it in groups or pairs, essays will have different content. Both approaches are suitable, the teacher can decide which is best suited to class.

·        From the list of chosen items, students decide how the comments will be organized. Different students or groups of students might choose different ways of organizing the ideas. For example in an essay that asks students to compare and contrast living in a town and in the country, some students might want to group all comments about the city together and all comments about the country together and conclude with a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two. Other students might prefer to group together ideas about traffic and then compare traffic in the city and in the country in the same paragraph.
At the end of this stage, students will have a plan or mind map that they can use for writing.

·        Students write the first draft of their piece of work. Tell  students that they should think about the content and how it relates to the title, organizing their ideas into paragraphs and about how the paragraphs hang together.

·        In the same lesson, in later lessons, or for homework, students can revise their first drafts, improving on the content and organization.

·         When they have a good second draft, i.e. the content, relevance and organization satisfies them, they can move onto improving the language. I suggest that they approach language improvement in stages. For example, they could start by focusing on vocabulary, the correct choice of word. Then they could look at aspects of grammar: tenses, verb agreement, use of pronouns etc. Then move onto spelling and punctuation. The teacher can, of course, organize this language work differently. During this stage, students can review their own work or the work of their classmates.

·         Finally, students can copy out their essays, in a clean, final version. There are various ways to organize the work; initially it is best if the teacher do the stages together as a whole class. Later and when the students are used to process writing, the teacher can start work as a whole class and then the students can work together in pairs or groups. Some stages can also be done for homework. The teacher’s role throughout is to provide ideas, guidance and feedback. The teacher will also need to encourage students to edit their own work and to incorporate feedback. One advantage of the process approach to writing is that it helps students see that a piece of writing goes through a number of stages including revision and editing. By breaking down these stages and working on each one individually, the teacher can help students see the importance of them. They can see that writing does not have to be perfect from the outset and this will make it easier for them to tackle any writing task. It will also help alleviate writer’s block that sometimes occurs when students are faced with a blank piece of paper! If students are writing in pairs or groups, there will also be a lot of interaction when they’re discussing their revisions. However, there are drawbacks. Initially, students will find this a novel way to approach a piece of writing and they might not see the importance of the initial stages and try to skip to writing the final product immediately. However, the effort and time invested will pay off as this approach often generates lengthier pieces of writing. Process writing takes longer than other approaches to writing. If the teacher has access to computers, do use them. Computers lend themselves very well to this sort of activity. To help students see the benefits, the teacher could give them a writing task at the beginning of the course. When they’ve completed it, ask them to note how they approached the task. Take in their work and keep it without marking it.

 Ardhendu De