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A Process Approach to Writing
by Adam Simpson
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2.2 Prewriting

In process writing, the first thing that a writer needs to do is to find something to write about. In language classrooms this issue is often solved by the teacher, who provides the subject matter. When a subject is chosen, the audience, purpose and tone of the writing need to be considered(1) . The next stage is to employ strategies that will help the learner to explore the topic. Strategies such as brainstorming, clustering and freewriting enable the writer to expand a narrow topic or narrow a broad one, as well as enabling a learner to focus on the specifics that need to be covered This is consistent with 'top-down processing'(2) . This differs from product writing, in which the audience is rarely considered, and readings provide the model for students to emulate. Furthermore, there is already a focus on structural accuracy at this stage.

2.3 Writing Production

Process writing production is merely a 'prototype' stage, which will involve aspects such as free-writing and peer feedback. At this stage the emphasis is on content and organisation. In contrast, the product approach employs genre based writing tasks based on previously modeled structures, and the focus is again on accuracy.

2.4 Revising

Revision is not something that clearly exists in product writing, as the assumption is that the provided model has been followed. Process writing, in contrast, requires that a degree of analysis be undertaken. Revision would usually be based on the feedback given by peers.

2.5 Teacher Evaluation

Williams (2003) states that written feedback is an essential part of any language course that involves a writing element(3) . Feedback falls into two categories: feedback on form and feedback on content. Content feedback relates to product writing, and generally consists of the indication of grammatical errors. Feedback on form, however, focuses on the communicative effectiveness of the piece.

2.6 A further Note

It should be noted that, while the product approach follows a linear pattern, the process approach is, in direct contrast, cyclical. While some degree of structured product-oriented writing may be appropriate for lower level learners(4) , Baskoff's opinion, cited in the introduction, indicates that a cyclical process approach initiated in the early stages of learning will be beneficial to the long-term writing skills of the learner.

As many authors have noted, the process approach is a relatively new phenomenon in the English Language classroom. Indeed, it was something that I was unaware of when I started teaching. This lack of awareness, particularly in terms of the cyclical nature of the process, has obvious repercussions in classroom application, and these will be discussed in the next section.

1.Obviously, this is a bigger issue for higher level learners than elementary students, who don't have the range of language available to change their approach.
2.Top-down processing utilises the background knowledge of the learner, either in terms of knowledge of the world around them or of text structures.
3.Williams, (2003), http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Williams-Feedback.html
4.Who have less language available to them to be able to consider factors such as audience or tone.

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