Process Writing is an approach to teaching writing that allows the teacher and the students to go through the process of producing a text together. In process writing, students have the chance to think about what they are going to write, produce drafts, revise, edit, and give and receive feedback on their work before coming up with the final version of the text. A process approach to writing contrasts with a product approach, where the main idea is to reproduce a model text.
Stages of process writing:
The creative process of writing a text is the focus of process writing. Writing is a productive skill and the stages of a writing lesson differ from that of receptive skills, like reading. A typical process writing lesson usually includes the following phases:
In this stage, learners are asked to come up with ideas and plan what they are going to write. This stage might include:
- Brainstorming ideas;
- Selecting ideas.
Learners can - and should - work collaboratively during this stage. They can use techniques such as creating lists, mind maps and charts in order to brainstorm and select the ideas they'd like to include in their texts. This can be done in or outside the classroom - using ed tech tools such as Padlet and Edmodo might enable the teacher to set collaborative work while students are at home.
In this stage, learners can compose the first draft of their texts. As students will be given the chance to revise and edit their texts later, accuracy of language, punctuation and vocabulary is not essential at this point. Composing the text can be done individually or collaboratively - learners can be given the chance to choose, according to their preference.
This is when learners have the opportunity to look back at their texts and reorganise ideas, add, change or remove sentences and adapt their choice of words to make sure the ideas are being conveyed clearly. Feedback has an essential role in this stage. It can be provided by the teacher or by peers: learners can exchange drafts and comment on each other's work.
After revising, students write another draft - that means they go back to the "writing" stage. This is an essential part of process writing: allowing learners to write different drafts as focus on the process, rather than in the final result.
After writing several drafts, it is time to proofread, check grammar, spelling and punctuation. Again, encouraging peer help and getting students to read each other's work might be useful.
Some considerations when adopting a process approach to writing:
It fosters creativity:
Unlike product writing, process writing does not have a model text as the starting point. That means that learners have the chance to use their previous knowledge and start thinking about a text based on the ideas that they come up with. When planning to use a process approach to writing, however, it is important to think about what type of text - or textual genre - the students will be asked to produce. If learners need to write a narrative, an article or an essay, focusing on ideas first might be a good choice. However, if the genre conventions are very fixed, like in e-mails, formal letters, or reports, a product approach to writing might be more suitable.
It encourages collaborative work:
Most stages of process writing allow for group work and peer collaboration. Learners can work together while they generate and select ideas - they might end up many more ideas in the pre-writing phase if this is done collaboratively.
Feedback is of paramount importance when writing is seen as a process. As learners can (and should!) write multiple drafts when this approach is adopted, feedback is present throughout. Instead of being provided by the teacher only, there is room for peer feedback and peer correction. For peer feedback to be effective, however, the teacher must provide the tools for learners to give feedback to each other. Some ideas might involve asking students to focus on one aspect of the text at a time (e.g.: giving feedback on content first, then helping each other revise the organisation of the text, etc.)
One of the greatest advantages of teaching learners how to collaborate with each other when writing is that it resembles how writing takes place in most real-life situations: when we write texts, before submitting it to the final reader, we usually ask somebody to read and give us feedback. Why not trying this in the classroom as well?
Writing takes time - and this is even more true with process writing. In order to enable learners to focus on the process, it is important to give them time to go through the stages, write multiple drafts, and incorporate the feedback they receive on their work. Students will spend a lot of time not writing, so it is important to help them keep their final objective in mind during the process.
It requires support
As mentioned previously, feedback is key for a successful process writing lesson. In addition to that, staging the lesson coherently and providing the necessary amount of support in each phase may help learners reach their objectives more efficiently. For example, if learners are asked to proofread, it would be a good idea to give them tools that will enable them to proofread effectively.
I hope this post was helpful! Remember to leave a comment and give us feedback and suggestions for future posts!
Evans, F. 1998. Successful Writing.
Harmer, J. 2004. How to teach writing.
Reid, J. 2000. The Process of Composition.
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Andreia Zakime is an Academic Coordinator at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo, a CELTA tutor and one of the co-founders of What is ELT?