Student Question

How does understanding the stages of the writing process inform your teaching?

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The Writing Process involves these steps:

  1. Brainstorming/Prewriting.  It is essential to first get ideas down without concern for their organization.  Thinking on paper about the topic and putting one's ideas and those that one feels he/she can support are part of this step. (Finding the support is also part of this step.) Writers use various methods for this step of prewriting such as lists, Venn diagrams, spatial diagrams, modified outlines, and so on.  Whatever works for the individual writer is what should be used.  Forcing a person who does not think easily in deduction to use an outline defeats the purpose of prewriting because this person cannot,  then, think freely.
  2. Writing the Rough Draft.  Taking what one has done in the prewriting process, the writer composes a draft.  If, for instance, the assignment is an essay, then the writer drafts an introduction which contains a motivator whose purpose is to hook the reader, a thesis statement, containing the argument of the essay, and a blueprint, which is a short list of the main points to be made and supported in the central paragraphs.  (For a five-paragraph essay, there will be three main points from which topic sentences will be formed.) In composing the rough draft, the writer does not overly concern him/herself with grammatical and spelling errors as getting ideas down is of primary importance. 
  3. Revising This step is the most IMPORTANT step of the writing process and should involve the most time by the writer.  In this stage, the writer rereads what has been written, improving the style and structure of sentences, inserting transitional words and phrases, adding more supporting details, strengthening points that have been made, checking for coherence and unity of paragraph and essay.  Thus, parts may need to be removed, added, rearranged; trite words replaced with more succinct and original ones, sentences revised for variety.
  4. Proofreading After letting the piece of writing "sit" for a while, the writer returns to it and reads it over again--or has someone else read it--checking for any mechanical errors such as spelling and variety and correctness of sentences and expression.  Recopying of the essay is then done.
  5. Publishing The written work is submitted or read aloud or published in a magazine, etc.

It is also important to explain to students how to write a conclusion that restates the thesis, adding a clincher, "a final sentencce or two that leave no doubt in the reader's mind that the essay has reache its end."  (The Practical Writer )

In the classroom, collective exercises with writing introductions and doing revisions seem to help students understand the processes and their importance.  For, many students want to put too much into their introductions and so often students do not realize all that revision involves and the great importance of this step.

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Each writer has a different method of writing. My method of writing entails three stages. First, I research and try to find interesting topics.  Second, once I find a topic that interests me I look to formulate a thesis. Third, after the thesis, I create an outline with additional research. Finally, I begin writing the paper. I should note that there are many drafts. 

When I teach writing, I emphasize these points. I ask students to think of topics that interest them as they read and discuss matters in class. Then I ask them to find a thesis. I spend a lot of time on this part, because the writing of the thesis is the most important part of the paper. A poor thesis will make the whole paper poor. An excellent thesis is the foundation of an excellent paper. After this point, I ask them to persuade people why they believe that their thesis is correct. I ask them to picture themselves as lawyers who are seeking to prove a point. 

I also teach students the importance of rough drafts. In fact, I have students write several drafts. Revisions make the paper even better and in the end make a final product.

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