Writing: Big Ideas
The Process of Writing
Students learn in elementary school that writing is a process that, like reading, involves thinking before, during, and after a task. As they move through the grades, this process becomes more refined, reflecting the different ways knowledge is produced and communicated within each discipline. This refined understanding of writing reflects three essential considerations: 1) the task environment, both social and physical; 2) the individual (e.g., motivation, prior knowledge, goals); and 3) cognitive processes involved in planning (e.g., generating and organizing ideas; problem solving and making decisions); drafting these ideas into connected text; and reflecting/revising to improve text. (Hayes, 2000).
The general components of the writing process are:
- Planning. To prepare for a writing task, writers plan, organize, and outline their ideas. This requires a clear understanding of the purpose and audience for writing and the individual goals writers determine to communicate their ideas. Questions to consider are: Why am I writing this? Who is my audience? What are the essential ideas I want to include? What examples will support these ideas? What is the best way to organize my writing?
- Drafting. Writers use their plan to create a draft that represents their thinking. Questions to consider are: How do I begin? What is my lead? What and how much information is needed to communicate my ideas? What do I need to do to clarify my ideas? What questions might my audience have that I need to address? How will I conclude my writing?
- Revising. Throughout the process, writers reread what they have written and rewrite based on several questions: Have I presented my ideas in a clear and understandable manner? Do I need to elaborate on my ideas? Can I use different words that more clearly reflect my thinking? Do I need to clarify anything? Does it make sense?
- Editing. This may be considered one of the final parts of the revising process. Writers reread their work to ensure the text is readable to their audience and includes correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. This is often referred to as “polishing.”
- Publishing/Sharing. This element may not always be included unless the writing is part of a culminating activity, such as sharing the piece publicly, or summative assessment. Questions to consider: What is the best way to share my writing and ideas? What technology will enhance this? How well did I explain my thinking?
It is critical to understand that proficient writers do not engage in this process in a linear, step-by-step fashion. Rather, they use these components interactively and recursively as they generate and clarify their ideas. Writers may also engage in more than one activity simultaneously. For example, they may revise as they are drafting; they may set new goals or rethink their organization of ideas as they draft or revise.
Reflect: Which part of the writing process is most difficult or problematic for your students? How do you support them to overcome these difficulties?