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The traditional writing process

This chapter offers user-friendly free applications to help teachers incorporate digital writing tools in their classrooms. The authors encourage a collaborative and inquiry-driven environment to help teachers implement new digital tools that can motivate students and develop 21st century writers. The authors use the NCTE's Definition of 21st Century Literacies (2013) to discuss digital writing tools. The authors offer a framework for scaffolding the introduction of these applications in K-12 classrooms and in professional development and align traditional writing process tools to digital writing tools.



We (Kathy, a middle and high school English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, and Keri, a former middle and high school ELA teacher and current university professor) met through our local national writing project site. A shared interest in digital writing in our classrooms led us to collaboratively develop professional development for K-University teachers that would motivate teachers to incorporate more digital tools in their classrooms. In fact, we wanted the teacher-participants in the professional development we led to do more than just try a new tool. We hoped that digital tools might inspire more writing in the classroom and a new perspective on teaching and learning.

Students of all ages are online more and more and at younger and younger ages. Common Sense Media (2013) reports that 75% of students ages zero to eight have access to mobile devices (up 23% in two years) and tablet ownership for this age group has increased from 8% to 40%. And, these are elementary students! In fact, in 2013 babies and one-year olds have used smartphones as much as eight-year-olds did two years ago.

While younger children use mobile devices, tablets, and Internet devices of all kinds more frequently, the Pew Internet and American Life Project (2013) reports that 75% of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers indicate that “the Internet and other digital tools have added new demands to their lives [ . . . ] by increasing the range of content and skills about which they must be knowledgeable.” Forty-one percent report that Internet and digital tools “require more work on their part to be an effective teacher” (p. 2). Over 75% feel the need to be more knowledgeable; we fear that this need to feel more knowledgeable can hinder the implementation of digital tools.

In a book focused on digital tools for writing instruction in K-12, we attempt to answer the following question: how do teachers balance the demands of teaching writing with digital tools without needing to feel like a digital expert? This chapter offers a continuum to move from traditional paper and pen writing processes to multimodal literacies. For most teachers, as the Pew study reveals, traditional paper and pen approaches to writing instruction feel like they require more work, require more knowledge, and make us less comfortable. For K-12 students, digital writing tools may feel like less work and require less perceived knowledge. Essentially, they may feel more comfortable with digital tools than their teachers. We see traditional writing processes and digital processes along a continuum that helps us to take into account the skills and abilities of different audiences. The continuum helps us to create a set of literacy activities that move from print to digital and back again and, for those especially uncomfortable, translate pen and paper practices into digital writing practices and accompanying tools. Beginning with the standard education philosophy to tap prior knowledge, we share advice and tools to implement digital tools learned through offering digital writing professional development for K-12 teachers of all content areas and from real-world classroom examples gleaned from Kathy and Keri’s classrooms.

The goal of this chapter—and the goal of the book—is for readers to find new ways to incorporate digital tools into the teaching of writing. The tools we use with middle and high school students are the tools we use in professional development with teachers. The ideas provided in this chapter can be implemented for K-12 and in professional development for K-12 teachers. Simply, students and teachers have a wide variety of experiences with digital literacy. We start with what may be familiar, if not more comfortable, and translate traditional tools of writing with digital tools of writing that can be found free online.

the traditional writing process

the traditional writing process Translating Traditional Writing Process Tools to Digital Ones ...

Ten years later, in 1982, Maxine Hairston argued that the teaching of writing had undergone a "paradigm shift" in moving from a focus on written products to writing processes.[2]

For many years, it was assumed that the writing process generally operated in some variation of three to five "stages"; the configuration below is typical:

What is now called "post-process" research demonstrates that it is seldom accurate to describe these "stages" as fixed steps in a straightforward process. Rather, they are more accurately conceptualized as overlapping parts of a complex whole or parts of a recursive process that are repeated multiple times throughout the writing process. Thus writers routinely discover that, for instance, editorial changes trigger brainstorming and a change of purpose; that drafting is temporarily interrupted to correct a misspelling; or that the boundary between prewriting and drafting is less than obvious.


Approaches to the process[edit]

Cognitive process theory of writing (Flower–Hayes model)[edit]

Overview of cognitive model[edit]

Flower and Hayes extend Bitzer's rhetorical situation to become a series of rhetorical problems, i.


In "The Cognition of Discovery" Flower and Hayes set out to discover the differences between good and bad writers. They came to three results from their study, which suggests that good writers envelop the three following characteristics when solving their rhetorical problems:

  1. Good writers respond to all of the rhetorical problems
  2. Good writers build their problem representation by creating a particularly rich network of goals for affecting a reader; and
  3. Good writers represent the problem not only in more breadth, but in depth. (476)

Flower and Hayes suggest that composition instructors need to consider showing students how "to explore and define their own problems, even within the constraints of an assignment" (477). They believe that "Writers discover what they want to do by insistently, energetically exploring the entire problem before them and building for themselves a unique image of the problem they want to solve."

Criticism of cognitive model[edit]

Patricia Bizzell argues that even though educators may have an understanding of "how" the writing process occurs, educators shouldn't assume that this knowledge can answer the question "about 'why' the writer makes certain choices in certain situations", since writing is always situated within a discourse community (484).

This process occurs when students "treat written English as a set of containers into which we pour meaning" (486). Bizzell contends that this process "remains the emptiest box" in the cognitive process model, since it de-contextualizes the original context of the written text, negating the original. She argues that "Writing does not so much contribute to thinking as provide an occasion for thinking..."

Social model of writing process[edit]

"The aim of collaborative learning helps students to find more control in their learning situation.[3]

Even grammar has a social turn in writing: "It may be that to fully account for the contempt that some errors of usage arouse, we will have to understand better than we do the relationship between language, order, and those deep psychic forces that perceived linguistic violations seem to arouse in otherwise amiable people" (Williams 415). So one can't simply say a thing is right or wrong. There is a difference of degrees attributed by social forces.[4]

Expressivist process theory of writing[edit]

According to the expressivist theory, the process of writing is centered on the writer's transformation.

This theory became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to Richard Fulkerson's article "Four Philosophies of Composition", the focus of expressivism is for writers to have "... an interesting, credible, honest, and personal voice". Moreover, proponents of the expressivist process view this theory as a way for students to become fulfilled and healthy both emotionally and mentally. Those who teach this process often focus on journaling and other classroom activities to focus on student self-discovery and at times, low-stakes writing. Prominent figures in the field include John Dixon, Ken Macrorie, Lou Kelly, Donald C. Stewart and Peter Elbow.

Historical approaches to composition and process[edit]

An historical response to process is concerned primarily with the manner in which writing has been shaped and governed by historical and social forces. These forces are dynamic and contextual, and therefore render any static iteration of process unlikely.

Notable scholars that have conducted this type of inquiry include media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, Gregory Ulmer, and Cynthia Selfe.


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