The Writing Process

The Writing Process

During my own teacher training and in my professional development throughout the years, whenever “writing” as a skill comes up — inevitably all the talk is about “The Writing Process”.

While I do believe in some ESL settings and in many L1 classrooms, the writing process is a great, whole language approach towards building student writing ability — I find it oversold and not that effective in the EFL environment. My experience in the classroom has taught me that what students really need most is “The Writing Product”.

Find below a powerpoint outlining the Writing process – basically, the steps a teacher takes the students through to produce a final product. Prewriting / Drafting / Editing / Publishing.

However, I insist that there are many inherent weaknesses to this “one size fits all model” and that to increase student writing ability, we don’t necessarily have to jump through all these hoops and sawhorses. What we do need to do is get students writing TO someone/somebody. Real writing with a purpose that includes a final product (but not necessarily like the Writing Process, a finished product – as Valery quipped regarding poetry but which is an apt caution for all writing – “a poem is never finished, merely abandoned.”).

Don’t fall into the writing process rut! Get your students writing – in any way, any form (but English of course!) so long as it is writing that is directed towards creating a product that will communicate something to someone else. I outline in the presentation many of the weaknesses of the Writing Process approach for EFL and here they are in brief.

1) Time — EFL instructors don’t see their students that often usually. There isn’t the time (or space in many cases) for this approach.

2) Loss of student interest – this follows from point #1 but also when working with young learners, they just don’t have the patience in many cases to keep “pondering” a piece of writing.

3) Not Suited to some personalities – this follows from point #2. Some students aren’t “reflective” types. They aren’t going to be creative writers or professional writers of any sort in even their L1.

4) Students need to be taught it. Yes, that’s right. We have to teach them the stages, model and spend time overtly drilling them on these steps when the time could be better used doing what we are in the classroom for – yes, you guessed it , WRITING.

5) It restricts spontaneity and the range of writing activities. There are a whole range of writing activities that get left aside when we focus on only those writing forms that ideally suit the Writing Process approach. Why can’t you spend time on having students write notes or emails to each other? What about shopping lists and graffiti?

That said, I’m not calling for teachers to stop using this approach. I’m just being pragamatic and asking that it not be something we always reach for or that administrators ask for (I know I always was – that’s the first thing they look for when looking over your long range plans). Hopefully, I’ll get the time and pursue this topic further with a full article but just wanted to get teachers thinking about PRODUCT and PRIDE and not getting bogged down in just the PROCESS.