This week we reviewed four articles on the topic of writing: Teach Writing as a Process Not Product by Donald M. Murray; Failure is not an Option by Allison D. Carr; Rubrics Oversimplify the Writing Process by Crystal Sands; and, Writers Block Just Happens to People by Geoffrey V. Carter.
Donald M. Murry made a strong argument for teaching writing as a process and not a product. At the outset, Murray states that once the teacher comes to the realization that teaching and learning composition is a process a curriculum can be designed which meets that objective. He then goes on to articulate various objectives of such a curriculum. He encourages teachers to engage in the process of using language in the process of communicating their views on the world around them. Additionally, he states that teachers should support the process that evolves during the time that the work is unfinished by encouraging this time period to be an exciting period of exploration with language. Students should also be encouraged to express the truth as they see it and dismiss notions of correct or incorrect. He explains that the writing process can be divided into three stages: prewriting, writing, and rewriting. He believes that prewriting takes about 85% of the writers time, writing the first draft may take as little as 1% of the writers time, and rewriting, which reconsiders subject, form, and audience perhaps necessitates the remaining 14% of the time the writer spends on the project. He stresses that it is the job of the teacher to elicit the students potential voice and to achieve this the teacher should first listen and then serve as a coach and encourager. He leads the reader to the conclusion of his article by enumerating 10 implications of engaging in teaching composition as process and not product. 1. Students examine the evolution of their writing with their peer group. 2. “The student finds his own subject” 3. “The student uses his own language” 4. The student should have the opportunity to engage in multiple drafts to refine their message 5. Various approaches to writing should be encouraged during the exploration process 6. “Mechanics come last.” 7. A deadline should be clear to the student after a sufficient period of exploration, development, and refinement. At this point the student receives a grade. 8. “The student writer is not graded on drafts. 9. This approach allows the student ample time to unearth their own truth. 10. Teachers adopt a perspective of waiting for, listening, and eliciting the student’s potential.
Murry’s article integrates well with the concepts presented in Allison D. Carr’s article, Failure is not an Option. After presenting the negative connotations of failure, Carr states, “What we have failed to grasp… is the integral connection between failure and risk, creativity, and innovation, not to mention emotional and cognitive resilience.” After accenting that in the fields of medical science and technology research that “fails” is necessary to explore options that can lead to a sought after answer, he stresses that the same is true in writing. He includes a quote of Ta-Nehisi Coates in order to encapsulate a central point of the article: Ta-Nehisi Coates… “describes writing as a process of repeated failures that, with persistence, accumulate to create breakthroughs.” Carr’s concluding statement indicates that he would be a strong advocate of Murry’s belief that writing should be taught as a process: Carr states, “it is crucial that the project of developing as a writer is understood as an always ongoing process of learning and discovery and that writing classrooms should be thought of a laboratories where experimentation and question-asking prevails over rule-memorization and formulaic discipline.”
Although Murry and Carr both advocate for teaching writing in the context of a process-oriented curriculum, Murry makes it clear that ultimately the process arrives at a point of evaluation. In Crystal Sands article Rubrics Oversimplify the Writing Process the author articulates what she sees as the benefits in utilizing a rubric as a tool of evaluation. She states that one of the benefits is that this method of evaluation, discussed in advance, helps students to know what the basic expectations are which eases their writing anxiety. She also sees the rubric as a tool that facilitates student self-assessment and one which encourages critical thinking skills. Additionally, a rubric supports students in effectively engaging in peer review. As the title of the article states, Sands recognizes that a rubric can guide students to focusing on key elements; however, “several more specific or unique comments on the student writing” may be necessary to encourage students to examine elements that a rubric does not address.
Geoffrey V. Carter’s article, Writer’s Block Just Happens to People is a well written humorous piece that ultimately encourages a writer to enjoy playing with words if or when writers block occurs.