Involving Students in the Writing Process

If teachers want to actively involve students in the writing process, they should take into consideration the four essential elements of the process. The first element is planning; students need to construct a plan of the subject matter they will write about. The second essential element which is implied by the process of writing is drafting; drafting refers to the initial variant of a written text which is nothing but a draft. The third important element implied by the writing process is editing; after creating the draft, writers read the text again to see if the form and content of the text are appropriate. The fourth element is the final version; after editing the draft and after changing what has to be changed, writers create the final version of their piece of writing.

Writing as a product and writing as a process have to be reconsidered. These two processes need to be reconsidered due to the changes around us. The world around us is changing significantly from the point of view of media communication; this means a lot of things. It means that not only the academic environment is interested in the process of writing, but also some other types of environments.

The traditional approach which is still applied today does not pay too much attention to the changes mentioned above. In many classrooms, students have to write compositions, teachers correct these compositions with red ink and they give them back to students. Afterwards students put the corrected compositions in folders and never will read or analyze them in the future. This of course has to change.

This kind of teaching writing mentioned above made students concentrate on the product of writing and not on the process of writing. Students paid attention to “what” they wrote and not to “how” the written text should be constructed. Attention should be paid to both “what” and “how” students write. Modern approaches are intended to help students analyze texts, choose the language and construct the text. These approaches make students focus on the writing process; in other words, students are taught how to write and what to write at the same time.

If teachers want their students to be good writers, they should put into practice certain strategies meant to help students get accustomed to the four elements of the writing process. A first technique would be that of encouraging students to plan the subject matter; planning makes the subject matter more effective. This means that students should be encouraged by teachers to think of the content and of the order of ideas they need to write down or type on a computer keyboard.

There are two modalities through which students can be encouraged to plan; the first modality is brainstorming; according to this method, students discuss and generate ideas in a group or in pairs. Another method of encouraging students is that of the guided tasks; tasks play an important role in the forming of the writing habit.

According to the method of the guided tasks, a teacher or a coursebook proposes activities meant to help students construct a plan for writing. Apart from the content they need to plan, students should be encouraged to think of some other important aspects. Students should think of the reason and purpose of the piece of writing and also of the target audience for which they write. The audience influences the piece of writing at all levels.

Another technique centered on the process of writing is that of involving students in drafting, reflecting and revising. Students need to view the initial drafts only as initial attempts, not as final versions. Initial drafting is an important step in the writing process. Teachers need to train their students in making use of those tools with the help of which students can correct their written work.

Learners also have to revise their pieces of writing in order to obtain the final product. They can revise by using checklists and by making revisions. A method used by teachers in order to encourage learners to draft, reflect and revise is the collaborative writing. In groups or in pairs, learners can create together a piece of written work, can exchange ideas about form and content.

Another technique based on the process of writing is the technique of teachers’ responding to their students’ pieces of writing. Teachers should exchange the correction of the final version of the written piece with the response to the written piece in progress. This response involves some actions which have to be undertaken by the teacher. Here are some examples of actions which can be undertaken.

The teacher can talk to certain students in a group of learners about some of their variants of drafts; meanwhile the rest of the group members can edit their own drafts. An alternative way of acting is the following: the teacher may edit a draft and make suggestions in writing about the reordering of the written texts by the students themselves.

The teacher also has the possibility to read the students’ written text from the draft and to write his or her own version of that text. The teacher’s version will certainly be a better one. What the teacher does when writing his or her own version is nothing but reformulation which will finally lead to reformulation on the student’s part. The student has the chance to compare his or her version with the teacher’s product.

Teachers are not the only ones who may react to students’ pieces of writing. There are the other students who can react. It is most of the time very useful for students to have their written work corrected by their classmates; this is called peer response which is an alternative to teachers’ response and which is offering new perspectives upon any student’s piece of writing.

It is extremely important for students to become good writers; when students write well, they learn a lot, have more confidence in themselves; they are appreciated by their colleagues and their teachers because they create new worlds or explain the reality which all of us face.

Harmer, J., 2007. How to teach English. Harlow: Pearson/Longman.
Jones, L. 2007. The Student-Centered Classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.


prof. Bogdan-Mihai Măimăscu

Liceul Tehnologic Grigore Antipa, Bacău (Bacău) , România
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