This article presents an overview of Process Writing and delineates its many components as well as how it is used in the writing classroom. Process writing is a cognitive process model of writing instruction whereby students follow a developmental process of stages in preparing any written work. This pedagogy is a useful teaching methodology for those students who need support in their writing skills. Unlike traditional models of writing, process writing de-emphasizes error correction. Student writers who incorporate process writing in their literacy development follow the universal stages of successful writers in developing a topic through pre-writing and planning, drafting a paper, conferencing with their peers and the teacher, revising the paper, editing for surface-level errors, and publishing the work. Key elements of process writing include asking student to write often, receive frequent feedback, and write multiple revisions. Recent research has supported the use of process writing for special education students, as a way to enhance literacy skills and self-esteem of writers who possess learning disabilities.
Keywords Authentic Assessment; Conferencing; Drafting; Editing; Journaling; Mini-Lessons; Publishing; Pre-Writing; Revising; Writing Workshop
Teaching Methods: Process Writing
Process writing is a cognitive process model of writing instruction whereby students follow a developmental process of stages in preparing any written work in the classroom. Process writing is a useful teaching methodology for those students who need support in their writing skills. Unlike traditional models of writing, process writing de-emphasizes error correction. In a process approach, of course the product and accuracy and grammar are important-they are just not the first and only thing that is important (Diliduzgun, 2013). This methodology can be introduced as early as kindergarten, even before students learn the formal aspects of language and correct spelling (Stahl & Pagnucco, 1996). Research reveals that those students who are taught writing through a process approach are able to write sooner than other students and produce a greater number of words than those who follow traditional programs of writing instruction (Clarke, 1998).
Student writers who incorporate process writing in their literacy development follow the universal stages of successful writers in developing a topic through pre-writing and planning, drafting a paper, conferencing with their peers and the teacher, revising the paper, editing for surface-level errors, and publishing the work. These stages are universal in that every writer (student or professional) engages in these stages to some degree at one time during their own writing process (Williams, 2003). Teachers who support a writing process approach to instruction have an understanding of the developmental process of writing and what they can expect from writers at different stages in their cognitive understanding (Stringer, Morton, & Bonikowski, 1999). Teachers may support a writing workshop environment in their classrooms. Their goal is to engage students in the writing process as they model the recursive characteristics of mature authors. The process helps students adopt and practice the steps that writers go through, while giving them opportunities to discover their own individual processes so they can learn what works best for them in their own endeavors (Williams, 2003). During a writing workshop, the classroom curriculum is set up to support regular writing times and a structure to the process, as students write with some control over what they want to write about and how they want to write. Teachers facilitate learning of specific skills by presenting mini-lessons, short periods of explicit instruction that conveys information about writing strategies and skills to the whole class or small groups (Calkins, 1994). Student writers are involved in regular conferences with their peers and the teacher (Graves, 1983; Calkins, 1994).
This methodology for enhancing writing in students from kindergarten through college has been incorporated in classrooms for the last 20 years as a way to change traditional writing instruction in the schools. While Janet Emig (1971) was credited with originating process writing pedagogy, what she phrases as "process philosophy," the process approach really gained momentum in the 1980's and 1990's in the regular education classroom, supported by such researchers in writing instruction as Donald Graves (1983), Lucy Calkins (1986) and Jane Hansen (1987). Flower and Hayes (1981) wrote of the interactive conceptual nature of the various components of the writing process. Research during the early 1980's noted the general characteristics of classes that supported a process approach: the authentic writing, known audiences, daily writing, and common procedures and terminology. Process writing is considered a student-centered instructional method. There are key elements to improving student writing through process theory:
• Asking students to write often, in meaningful contexts,
• Providing frequent feedback on work in progress, and
• Requiring numerous revisions based on that feedback (Williams, 2003, p. 100).
Prior to this period, a more traditional approach to writing was common in the classroom. Typically, teachers assigned essays and students wrote one draft and submitted the papers for grading. The traditional approach is criticized by advocates of process writing for focusing on the final product and ignoring the process that takes place in the writer's thinking. Traditional writing pedagogy is rooted in form and end product. As a means of improving student writing, it applies rigid rules about the way a paper should be structured, studying grammar or composition topics and focuses on reading works of literature (Williams, 2003). Traditional writing is said to lack the sensitivity and appreciation for children's abilities as language users and learners (Hoffman, 1998). This product approach neglects a sense of ownership and a sense of purpose and audience. Basically, the product approach has ignored the more expressive or personal pieces that enhance writing skills (Murray, 1980; Fulwiler, 1987) and focuses too heavily on error correction.
The writing process methodology was supported through teacher pre-service and in-service programs, as well as through professional journals and conferences. In the mid to late 1980's, state curriculum was revised to include the writing process through planning, drafting, revising, editing, proofing and publishing as essential elements in a writer's process. In the early 1990's, Texas textbooks adopted the writing process approach as a basic model of instruction (Hoffman, 1998). In 1992, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federally financed program that provides a review of student achievement in the United States, revealed several findings that illustrated the success of the process writing approach:
• Students who spend more time writing in and out of school outperform those in traditional writing programs.
• Those students who use a larger number of process writing strategies write better.
• Those students who were asked by their teachers to write papers longer than one page and at least once or twice a month wrote better papers (NAEP, 1992).
The 1998 NAEP report suggested that process writing curriculum had become an institutionalized practice, with 80 per cent of students in the United States regularly engaging in process writing activity. The study stated that compared to other approaches to writing, process writing offered the best chance for improving students' skills.
Process Writing for Special Education
In the early stages of process writing implementation, special education students were not as exposed to the strategies promoted in process writing, as writing instruction for special education students tended to emphasize the low-level mechanical skills instead of the higher-level cognitive processes and strategies that were a common part of the process writing curriculum (Berninger & Hooper, 1993). However, more recent studies in special education instruction have shown that strategy instruction in the process of writing can be used productively with this group of students. Kamii (1985) states that incorporating the writing process in special education classes enhances student autonomy, encouraging these students to think and make good choices in writing for themselves.
Currently, the process approach to writing is supported by state and national standards across the nation. Researchers have advocated what accomplished writers often engage in -- a process that includes: planning and organizing ideas; translating ideas into papers; and reviewing and revising those papers (Flower & Hayes, 1981). Researchers and teachers understand that the process of writing is not just a linear process of stages but a recursive process, whereby writers can revisit any of the stages during the course of writing. This process is top-down in nature, as writers focus first on what they want to say, not on how they want to say it. The focus is on producing elements of what will eventually be a final product. Writers monitor their own writing process and, at any moment during this process, may re-plan, re-draft, or revise as they metacognitively improve their writing. As Atwell (1990) states, the process of writing becomes a tool for thought, unearthing a writers' own understandings and feelings in their communications.
Teachers act as writing facilitators in this student-centered approach to writing. While they develop mini-lessons, or direct instruction lesson plans in a skill or strategy, based on the information they glean from student writing or journals, the real focus of the class is on the student writers. Williams (2003) suggests that teacher talk should not exceed 15 minutes in a 50-minute period.
Peers act as co-authors, editors or responders in the writing process. Peers become co-authors as they work together to plan, write and publish a particular writing task. Student writers also respond to their peers' work and offer comments and corrections in both content and mechanics.
Authentic assessment is used to evaluate the different elements of process writing. Tompkins (2000) states that "process assessment is designed to probe how children write, the decisions they make as they write and the strategies they use rather than the quality of their finished products" (p. 143). There are basically three components to assessment: self-assessment questionnaires, portfolios and teachers' written comments through observations. Self-assessment questionnaires include lists of questions that aid student writers in reflecting upon or evaluating their own writing. Hard data can be collected from these questionnaires that can enlighten teachers as to student writer understandings. Portfolios are used to collect evidence that documents what a student writer has worked on and produced and how she/he has grown as a writer (Atwell, 1987). Student writers can choose their best papers for each grading period, demonstrating their development.
Authentic assessment can occur through teachers' written comments through observation, as well. As teachers observe student writers through their process, they note through written comments on checklists how student writers write and participate in writing process activities. Checklists can be adjusted to reflect the various...
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