|Teaching Writing at the Elementary School Level
The common truth, “practice makes perfect,”
applies to so many tasks that a person undertakes in life, including writing.
The school systems cannot expect to produce good writers without giving
students the tools they will need to practice. By teaching an all-encompassing
writing process in elementary school, the students may begin to discover
methods that help them write more effectively. The writing process
must be broad and somewhat vague as to cover many different methods of
writing. The sooner teachers introduce students to a multitude of
writing techniques, the more time they have to discover what works best
for them and fine tune that process. Teachers should introduce
a three step writing process in the elementary schools that consists of
brainstorming, composing, and revision.
The three steps in the writing process
each involve various ways to perform that step. For example, students
can brainstorm in more than one way. In addition, the three steps
are all interrelated stages that might occur all at once. The
article “Steps in Research and the Writing Process,” states that writing
“is not necessarily a linear process, with one step immediately following
another" (Cardell and Likton). While the general progression begins
with brainstorming, then composing, and then going back and revising, this
does not necessarily mean that one cannot brainstorm more ideas while revising,
or revise while still composing. Elementary school teachers should
present the process to the pupils as three separate stages, but they should
not criticize when students begin to interrelate all three steps.
For teaching purposing, teachers need to present three distinct stages
of the wring process. Students will most likely begin to interrelate
those three stages on their own. While teachers may stress
this idea, they generally teach the process as three separate stages, and
the interrelating of different stages will probably come naturally to the
The first stage, and perhaps the most
important one, in the writing process is brainstorming. This step
is so important because it allows writers to get their ideas together and
then organize them. Brainstorming is often referred to as prewriting,
but brainstorming focuses on gathering your thoughts while prewriting implies
writing them down. Writers often write their thoughts down as they
brainstorm, but this is not required. This first step involves the
most creativity and expression. Teachers should encourage students
to suggest any ideas that they can think of involving the writing topic
without restraining themselves. In this early stage of brainstorming,
it is important not to revise. Revising tends to hamper creativity,
and students should try to be as creative as possible in this early stage.
Students should explore different methods of brainstorming in the elementary
school classroom whether the students free write individually or make a
group list of ideas. Once students have suggested ideas have
been suggested either by talking about them or writing them down, then
they can begin to organize them. Flow charts, idea webs, and outlines
all effectively help students give their papers some form before the actual
Brainstorming allows writers to express
their thoughts without having to worry about other constraints involved
in the actual writing. Like many writers, classmate Melissa Hogewood
concludes, “I have to write down all of the points I want to make before
I start, otherwise I will get so caught up in my first thought that I forget
all the other stuff I wanted to say.” Teachers should always encourage
some form of brainstorming before a student starts a writing assignment.
In elementary school, it is imperative that teachers require students to
complete particular processes so that the student can experience many different
ways to brainstorm ideas. Classmate Joshua Burnett agrees that by
mandating certain processes, “the methods available to you [the writer]
Once students have brainstormed all
their ideas together and have a rough organization of the material they
will write about, they may start composing the paper. The best
way for teachers to help students write paragraphs, essays, and papers,
is to give them lots of practice. The more experience a student has
writing, the more comfortable he or she will become with it. Computers
should be available in the elementary school for students to compose papers
on word processing programs so that they may constantly make revisions
as they go, as well as reorganize their ideas. When students do not
have access to computers, teachers can encourage other writing techniques
to make revision easy, such as writing in pencil or double-spacing their
paragraphs on the paper.
The best help teachers can give
students in composing their papers is help with grammar. Students
that have a firm grasp on compound and complex sentences can further vary
their writing style, making it more interesting for the reader. The
teacher can also have the students practice sentences using transitional
phrases that help a paper flow.
Revision is the last step of the writing
process, but as seen already, it occurs throughout the composing process.
However, even though writers may revise as they compose, revising once
writing the paper is finished is vital. According to the article,
“Between Writer and Text,” “Writers in general testify repeatedly to the
importance of revision" (Krupa). Teachers probably focus on the revision
process least in the elementary school setting. While this may be
because the student’s assignment is simpler, this does not mean that elementary
schools should ignore the revision stage. Once writers complete
an assignment, they should take time away from the work. They
can then return to the piece with a fresh mind, and may be able to recognize
better ways to express ideas. Another essential component of revision
includes getting outside help on the paper. The teacher may make
comments on a student’s paper and hand them back to be revised, or the
teacher may put the class in pairs for peer revision. Elementary
school teachers may have to help monitor group or peer editing, but the
most important part is that the writer is reconsidering things that he
or she wrote.
By teaching a three-stage process with
many variations, elementary school teachers give their students many methods
to choose from in their later schooling. Research has found that,
“More able writers have more strategies from which to choose and they control
writing activities more effectively" (“Composing and the Cognitive Process").
Even if a student does not use all the methods taught in elementary school,
it is likely that he or she will use some variations of brainstorming,
composing, and revising. The sooner the school systems instill those
methods in the student, the more effective their writing will become.
Burnett, Joshua. “Class Discussion of the Writing Process.”
17 January 2002. English 31 Chatroom. 22 January 2002 <http://sites.unc.edu/iwill/a4.chat.doc>.
Cardwell, C. and Likton, S. “Steps in Research and the Writing Process.”
Research and Argument: Tools for Teachers and Students. (24 Oct. 1997).
http://karn.ohiolink.edu/~sg-ysu/process.html (22 Jan. 2002).
“Composing and the Cognitive Process.” (1 Jan. 2002). http://www.writeenvironment.com/Composin.html
(22 Jan. 2002).
Hogewood, Melissa. “Writing Process of Melissa Hogewood.” The e31 mailing
list. email@example.com (14 Jan. 2002).
Krupa, Gene H. “Between the Writer and Text.” JAC. 1983. http://jac.gsu.edu/jac/3/Articles/9.htm
(22 Jan. 2002).