A letter to the teachers of English: 96Prewriting, writing and rewriting (2) [Archives:2005/884/Education]

October 10 2005

PROF. M.N.K.BOSE [email protected]
Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb

Dear Fellow teachers,

Writing, according to a lot of researchers, consists of three stages: prewriting, writing and rewriting. Additionally, revision or editing of what we write can be the fourth stage. Though these three stages are unconsciously followed by most of the writing teachers, bringing them to consciousness and practicing them is one of the aims of this letter.

Prewriting is the stage in which the student develops ideas for his writing and lists them down as they appear in her mind in order to create a mental map of what she is going to write. The ideas for a piece of writing may be developed through brainstorming or discussion in the whole class, group, with friends, family members etc. As the name indicates, brainstorming is storming your brain so that the ideas flow from it. This is an opportunity to think of the theme and related ideas which may constitute the piece of writing to be done.

As some experts suggest, the ideas may spring at any point of time and in any place; one may get a brilliant idea when she is having a bath or eating her breakfast; it is always a good idea to jot down the ideas in their raw form in a small scrap book as and when they appear. Another important technique associated with prewriting is journaling, which means that students can be trained to develop the habit of maintaining what experts call 'think books' or 'learning logs' or diaries, in which they jot down whatever comes to their mind, relevant or irrelevant to the topic of writing. As this helps them generate ideas, they can be advised to develop this as a habit, not necessarily as a prewriting activity; they can put down pieces of information about their visit to an interesting place, their meeting an interesting person, their reading an interesting book etc. In my personal view, students can be advised to keep diary and write briefly everyday events in it; this can be a precursor to jounaling.

In the second stage of writing, students can be asked to make the first draft on the topic of their choice putting down some of the relevant ideas they have already collected through brainstorming or jounaling. This drafting can be done individually or in small peer groups. Students should be made to understand that this is not the final draft and they are free to put down whatever they think relevant, without worrying much about the grammatical correctness at this stage. This freedom may bring the best out of them. As this is not the final piece of writing, they can be encouraged to write with a pencil, with enough space between lines so that they may correct their writing later.

The third stage, rewriting, is what most of our students never engage themselves in. Every composition should be accepted only when there are two drafts – the first and the final – for it. Even in the examinations, we can ask them to the first draft and then the final draft on the topic of writing. Most often, the students reproduce the first draft as the final draft, because they hardly understand the difference between the two. They should be taught how to correct their own errors, grammatical as well as organizational. Proof reading can be taught as a part of the writing course at some level. We should pay special attention to teach them how to rewrite their pieces of writing. Rewriting can be a group task also. Let's try. Good luck.

Yours fraternally,