Teaching process writing entails taking students through the five main stages of producing written work: brainstorming, organizing, drafting, editing (and peer review) and finally publishing. Zemach’s main thesis was that writing teachers should be focusing primarily on brainstorming, organizing and peer review. The reason is that students do not immediately see the value in these steps, and think they can just save time by leaving them out.
Brainstorming should be done in class as much as possible, and can be taught as a skill separate from writing. Not all ideas that are brainstormed need to be written up into essays, but if students engage in brainstorming every lesson, they will naturally get better at it and their writing skills will improve. As an added incentive to teachers, making students brainstorm ideas first is a good way to stamp out plagiarism, and students can show that their final product was developed by them from inception.
The second stage of process writing, organization, involves sorting, categorizing or grouping ideas together into a coherent whole. Different cultures follow different norms for expressing written arguments, so it is important to explicitly instruct students in the norms required for writing in English.
After writing a first draft comes the editing and peer review stage. This is primarily for the benefit of the person giving the review, and only secondarily helpful for the person receiving the review. Zemach recommended giving a simple grade to the student reviewer, to encourage him or her to take it seriously. Peer reviewers should not be asked to correct spelling or grammar errors, but rather comment on the content and organization of the writing.
Participants in this workshop were equipped with a variety of activities and ideas for helping students achieve better results in their writing classrooms.