Teaching Writing: the Written Steps Technique

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Writing is not an inherently known skill. This lesson covers five steps in the writing process. It will give you insight on how to teach students to write.

Student Resistance to Writing

Picture this scene: a teacher in front of her class has just announced that the students will be writing a paper. The whole class erupts into cheers of joy as the students excitedly begin to get out pencil and paper. The teacher smiles peacefully then wakes from her day dream to the sound of angry grumbling students begrudgingly preparing for the writing assignment. Oh well, back to reality.

But, why? Why do students resist writing papers so much? Maybe it is because they don't know how to write.

That is the point of this lesson. Students need to be taught how to write a paper before being asked to complete such a task. This lesson will cover the five steps to writing, using explanations throughout. By teaching your students these steps, you will empower them to be great writers.


Pre-writing is the thought process before writing begins, during which students consider ideas and concepts to write about. Pre-writing helps students investigate their own ideas while they are trying to decide what to write about. Pre-writing gives students the chance to explore their ideas and plan how they are going to address whatever topic they choose.

Longer assignments or formal academic writing assignments may take quite a bit of pre-writing time. Extra time should be taken in the planning stage; maybe involving pre-writing for each segment of a large assignment. Short assignments, such as essays, may take very brief pre-writing times.

Two popular pre-writing activities are:

  • Brainstorming where students write down every idea that comes to their head. They then read over all the ideas that have been written to form a formal topic for writing.
  • Cluster mapping, also known as concept mapping, involves'a series of connected circles spreading out from a main circle in the middle of the map. The middle circle contains the main idea for the writing assignment, and the connected circles contain ideas connected to that main idea. The student may want to write a paragraph or two about each nodule (or circle idea) that is drawn in the map.
    A cluster map of ideas connected to an amusement park.

Good pre-writing participation can lead to a smooth writing experience. If the students spend a lot of time concentrating on their pre-writing exercises, when it is time to write, all the ideas are already on paper and just need to be formatted and placed in the correct order for the paper. Many teachers say that pre-writing is the most important step in the writing process.

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