Coaching Students through the Writing Process
Recently I've been reviewing some material about different styles of rhetoric and writing pedagogy. It's such an old tradition and is full of ideas, yet it is interesting how much more of an art it is than a science. Perhaps one of the best things we can do is to try to coach students well through each of the mini-processes that goes into the writing process. Often one or more of them are neglected:
1. pre-writing (brainstorming, gathering information, formulating questions, talking to others, etc.). I once helped a friend's "Little Sister" re-imagine her college application essay. It wasn't her sentence formation that was the problem, but her familiarity with this genre of writing - what tends to be included, what the audience wants to hear, etc.
2. planning - each piece of writing is a response to a particular rhetorical situation. What does this situation require, and how will you express the ideas, stance, and tone that fulfill the purpose of the piece? How will you organize your essay?
3. drafting - this is the one everybody does!
4. pausing - what is your student doing during pauses in his/her drafting process? Studies have found that good writers re-read what they have read so far, and they think about whether their writing is accomplishing what they set out to do in their plan.
5. revising - I had never thought about it this way, but literally the word "revise" means to re-see, or see again in a new light. Revising should involve big changes in organization, wording, or content.
6. editing - fixing sentence-level errors so that the piece conforms to standards of written English. This is where applied grammar instruction can be helpful - giving students the skills they need to edit their work or the work of others.
7. publishing - sharing your work with its intended audience- don't forget this one!
Teaching and doing writing can be fun when you see it as a complex craft.