Teach : Tim Koppang

The Writing Process

Many of my students have a writing process that involves procrastination. They often wait until the night before an assignment is due to draft their document. I think it is unrealistic of me to expect all of my students to manage an extended writing process. They have obligations for other classes and social engagements to contend with. They are typically college freshman adjusting to life on their own, and they may or may not have developed study habits appropriate for college level work. I consider it part of my job as a first-year composition teacher to help my students develop a system that works for them, and that will encourage them to engage with writing as a long-term, rather than a last minute process. To encourage my students to think about writing as a process, I prefer to scaffold my assignments and emphasize each student’s individual voice.

Especially for students fresh to college in their first semester, I prefer to give my students time to both draft and revise. I want that process of writing emphasized, and built into the course structure. This means building the brainstorming process into classroom activities. It means requiring students to turn in drafts before the final due date, and making those drafts worth points. It also means reserving class time for peer review and post-assignment reflection. As a teacher, I also need to be committed to my students’ writing process.

For the students who tend to think of writing as nothing more than a hurdle to leap over on their way to a degree, scaffolding assignments will only take them so far. For these students (and for all students, really), I try to emphasize the importance of writing in a larger context. What follows is an outline of a lecture I gave to my English 103 class during the first week. My goal was both to inspire the students to take the process of writing seriously, and also to remind them that writing is something more than academic papers composed solely for the purpose of receiving a grade. I want my students to feel as though their voice matters, and that by taking a writing class, they will be learning how to better convey their voice to others. There are few things more frustrating in life than not being able to effectively communicate. Writing, as a process, is and has been one of the best tools for self-expressing in any number of genres.

Why Write?

Writing is not just another class assignment. Of course you will write for many classes while you are students at NIU, but writing itself is much much broader. It is one of the most basic ways in which we interact with other human beings. Whether by Facebook, Twitter, text, email, article, essay, story, or other means, the written word is everywhere. The more connected we all are by computer, the more important writing is becoming day by day. We write because it is important.

Write to Think

Write to Discover

Write to Learn

Write to Communicate

Write to Reflect

Write to Engage with Society

The outline above was based on an exercise given to me in my own English 600 class. I found the exercise insightful and inspirational. It reminded me as to some of the reasons why I personally enjoy writing, and I felt as though my students would likewise benefit. I cannot say for sure whether I succeeded in my goal to inspire my students, but I do remember, at least, holding their attention. I plan to deliver a similar lecture next Fall, and in the future. It is important, as a teacher, to take a step back from time to time, and to remind the students of the larger goals of writing. They will all continue to write in and out of the classroom. As Lindemann reminds us, writing “is not merely a process of networking ideas or of bringing an isolated writer together with isolated readers,” but is instead “a way of living in social groups, of interacting with others and having them interact with us” (32-33). If an inspirational speech can aid them in thinking of ways to transfer the skills they learn in my class to other areas of their personal and professional lives, into another social context outside of the classroom, then I will have succeeded on a grander scale.

Works Cited

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.