Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Teaching Writing as a Process

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Teaching Writing as a Process

Though some composition theorists are now challenging and complicating the idea of writing, most accept that diverse writing instruction involves going beyond simple matters of correctness. By viewing writing as a process, not just as a product, the critical thinking behind all genres of writing is validated on an equal level. The best composition instruction thereby offers students guidance and experience ain the various stages of the writing process.

Composition instruction focused entirely on the "product," that is, the final draft submitted by the student, is more and more often being seen as ineffective. Students are given a specified topic, such as abortion or capital punishment, and told to write an essay that establishes and defends their position on the issue.

Teaching Revision

Give students examples of how many ways they can revise their papers. The following are some examples:

Delete words, sentences, or even whole paragraphs

  • Original: The man who was sitting in the seat in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see the screen.
  • Deletion: The man who was sitting in the seat in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see the screen.
  • Revised: The man in the seat in front of me was so tall that I couldn’t see the screen.

Add words, sentences, and paragraphs

  • Original: I was enjoying the holiday.
  • Revised: I was enjoying the holiday, lying on the grass with sun warming my back while I listened to music.

Rearrange words, sentences, and paragraphs

  • Original: I enjoy watching double feature horror movies on Halloween evening.
  • Revised: On Halloween evening, I enjoy watching double feature horror movies.

Substitute words, sentences, or paragraphs

  • Original: Aunt Ellen is a doctor.
  • Revised: Aunt Ellen is an orthopedic surgeon.

Revision vs. Editing

Explain the difference between revising and editing to your students. Editing refers to the mechanics of the writing, such as grammar, punctuation and spelling. Revision involves looking at the content of the essay, including tone, audience, and evidence.


Give students a checklist to use when revising their papers. It may help to...

Does my writing have a clear focus?

Do I need to add more details?

Is my writing organized in a way that makes sense?

Are there unnecessary parts I should leave out?

Is my writing style appropriate for my purpose and audience?

Have I chosen the most specific words possible?

Do my sentences vary in length and pattern?

Peer Review

Remember your audience

1. How much does the audience already know about this topic?

2. What can I tell them that they do not know?

3. Will my topic interest some audience members more than others?

4. How can I make my topic more interesting to all?

5. If I take a stand on an issue, will my audience agree with me?

6. If not, what interests or needs do they have through which I might change their minds?

7. Do they generally agree with my main points?

8. What are the interests and goals of most of my audience? Provide clear expectations

Rubric examples

Once you have set clear expectations for your students, it is important to provide them with some guidance... Here is one example of a very generic rubric.

  • Thesis statement is specific and clear _____/5
  • Main points in intro. are appropriate and clear _____/5
  • Body further proof of thesis _____/10
  • Sources are used to prove thesis _____/5
  • Mechanics do not detract from quality of essay _____/10
  • Conclusion restates thesis and reviews main points _____/5