Flipping the Writing Process

Student’s ha-a-ate prewriting. Can I get an Amen?

No matter how passionately I preach to my students that time spent in the prewriting process, especially time spent developing a thorough outline, will ease the drafting process (which they complain just as much about because they don’t develop useful outlines), I can’t change their attitudes about outlining. And I hate to grade outlines just to force them to do more than a scratch outline because I disagree with assigning grades to a thought process and planning. I’ve taken to giving completion grades, but I can’t count those for much without inflating their semester grades, so without much weight attached to the grade, the outlining assignment usually isn’t completed with much sincere effort.

I’m done preaching the prewriting gospel, and I have the idea of flipping Bloom’s Taxonomy to thank for my peaceful surrender. From now on, after topics are determined, I will not give my students any guidelines or requirements, nor will I teach them what I think they need to know to complete the assignment first. Instead, I will tell them to just start writing. To ensure that this is not simply freewriting, I will give my students a week to complete this. The results of this cliff dive into the essay will determine the guidelines and requirements of the assignment. Indeed, I want to see what possibilities emerge for the assignments before I infringe upon their potential.  Here it is in Bloomian terms:

Synthesis: write the essay

Evaluation: engage in class and small-group discussions of drafts

Knowledge: receive instruction (rhetorical, grammatical, and logistical) based on the strengths and weaknesses displayed in the drafts. 

Application: Revise and edit according to knowledge gained.

Remember making up rules to games before you were old enough to read the instructions or just because you wanted to–to see what was possible beyond the game’s set boundaries? You remained true to the general rule  that someone has to win, so you adjusted your rules when necessary to ensure that the ultimate goal of the game–to win–was still accomplished.

So that’s my plan: to give my students the “game” without instructions and see what “rules” they create and how they ultimately adjust them to “win.” I think putting the possibilities and the requirements (to some extent) in the students’ hands will lead to a deeper and more meaningful experience with writing due to the discovery and creative nature of this flipped process and thus to increased writing confidence.

Your thoughts, experiences?


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