Teaching the Writing Process
By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center
When I write longer papers, I always print out at least one hard copy of my draft before I complete final revisions. Even though I am very comfortable with drafting and revising papers in Microsoft Word, I still sometimes need to see my words on paper in order to see how well my ideas are coming together and what revisions may need to be made. While many others may not see a need for printing a copy of their written work during the revision stage, I need to have one when I write longer papers. It is part of my writing process. As tutors in the KUWC, we often have the opportunity to discuss the writing process with students. One sentiment that I sometimes hear from students when we discuss their writing process is “I don’t have a process; I just write” or some variation of this statement. While the writing process is a recursive, and not a linear process, there does need to be a process, and student writers often need to be taught that process, especially if they have formed the habit of not fully engaging in each step.
One way that tutors and teachers can encourage students’ full engagement is by showing them how each step in the process interplays with the other steps and the benefits of completing each step in the process. For example, students should know that skipping prewriting can cause writers’ block and unnecessary time spent starting at a blank screen or paper. Similarly, students who recognize that editing should occur after drafting and revising will usually discover that it is actually easier to get their thoughts down if they are not worrying about spelling and grammar. Students can also learn that revising before they edit can help them avoid spending time editing a paragraph or group of sentences that may be taken out of the essay altogether. So, while all writers write differently and need to find what works best for them, there are benefits to following a general process. To that end, the KUWC tutorial “The Writing Process: An Overview” provides a snapshot of the process and how the steps interact with each other. What are some other ways that you talk about the writing process with students? What techniques have you used successfully to engage students in the writing process?