What is Product Writing?
Product Writing is an approach to teaching writing that focuses on students' final production, that is, the text they are asked to produce. There is enhanced importance in the end product and this affects the way a product writing lesson is staged.
In the next section, we describe the stages of a product writing lesson. We also made available an activity that can be adapted to your lessons here:
Stages of a product writing lesson:
Product writing focuses on the end product. Students are not required to generate and brainstorm ideas as thoroughly as they do in process writing - instead, they spend more time analysing and practicing the main features of the text genre they are supposed to write. A product writing usually follows the stages below:
The first stage of product writing involves exposing students to a model text of the genre they are supposed to produce. After reading the model text, learners analyse the main features of the specific type of text. These features might be related to Content, Lexis, Organisation, Grammar and Style (also known by the abbreviation CLOGS - thanks to my DELTA tutor Melissa Lamb for that!).
Teachers tend to privilege product writing when the genre being worked with has fixed conventions - it is easier to draw students' attention to them, and producing the text requires less creativity and more knowledge of generic features. Some genres which might be more conducive to this approach are:
- Formal letters;
- CVs and cover letters;
- Personal statements.
Although the main aim of this stage is to expose learners to the genre, it is important to give them a task before they start reading to instill a motivation to read. For example, if learners are going to read a CV, you may ask them to decide whether they would invite the candidate for an interview or not; if they are reading an email, they may decide on the clarity of the message.
After identifying the key generic features, students need to practice them to feel confident to produce their texts. The practice stage might involve gap-fill activities, true or false, finding the mistakes in a text, etc. This will depend on what aspect of the text learners need more practice on.
Now it is time for students to start thinking about the text they are going to write. Learners can work collaboratively during this phase to generate ideas and take notes on what they would like to include in the text and language that might be useful for them to produce their work.
For example, if students are expected to write a CV, they can use this stage of the lesson to jot down ideas related to their education, their work experience, any volunteering work they had done, their skills and qualifications. The teacher's role is to provide support, give feedback, and assist with emergent language. Peer support might also be very helpful during this stage.
Finally, students produce their own texts. Product writing does not foresee the composition of multiple drafts, but it is still essential that the teacher provide learners with feedback on their production.
Some considerations when adopting a product approach to writing:
It helps learners develop analytical skills:
Analysing the features of a text is not an easy job. By adopting a product approach to writing, teachers can help learners develop an awareness of not only writing itself, but of discourse, grammar and lexis. These is a useful set of skills for real life, since many times we use models to produce our texts, and being aware of how to identify generic conventions might help students become more proficient and independent writers.
If compared to a process approach to writing, the product approach is probably less time consuming. This happens because the focus in on the end product, whereas process writing requires learners to focus on the path that they take to reach their aim. There is no right or wrong approach - however, time constraints should be taken into account when opting to use one approach over the other.
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.
Swales, J. 1990. Genre Analysis.
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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?