National Writing Project

Resource Topics

Teaching Writing - Writing Processes - General

Additional Resources

Get Ready for National Novel Writing Month and Find Out How You Can Use It in Your Classroom

October 2011
In this episode of NWP Radio, hear from the staff of National Novel Writing Month, who will talk about how to write a novel "by the seat of your pants in 30 days"—this November. Also, NWP teacher-consultant Donalyn Miller will discuss how her students wrote a novel last year and how her class is gearing up for more novel writing this year. More ›

Article Exploring Process, Inquiry, and the Benefits of Site Research Wins Award

December 2009
Art Peterson
Researchers from the South Coast Writing Project compared the classroom practice of teachers who had experienced their site's inquiry-based professional development with the practice of those who hadn't—and reaped unexpected benefits. More ›

Multimedia Composition: A Question of Balance

July 2009
Northern California Writing Project Director Peter Kittle taught himself multimedia composition by creating this video alongside his students. He documents how he learned to be a mountain unicyclist—and relates those processes to literacy learning. More ›

Lifebook Journals Help Students Write Fluently

May 2008
Tricia Hall
A teacher inspires her second grade students to write by having them keep "Lifebooks" modeled after Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook. They love it, and their entries later become the bases of longer pieces. More ›

How to Start a Novel? Write the Whole Thing in a Month

August 2008
Grant Faulkner
Lynn Jacobs, a teacher–consultant with the Northern California Writing Project, leapt into National Novel Writing Month in 2007 to fulfill her lifelong dream of writing a novel. The experience informed not only her writing process, but her teaching as well. More ›

They Have to See It to Write It: Visualization and the Reading-Writing Connection

November 2007
Elizabeth Dinkins
Frustrated by her students’ reluctance to write, a seventh-grade teacher shows them how to “see” what they’re reading and draw what they want to write about—and they begin to think like writers. More ›

Space to Imagine Digital Storytelling

Lisa Miller
In this chapter from Teaching the Neglected R, Lisa Miller links the process of digital storytelling to the processes of prewriting research, exploration, and revision, and also explores nuts-and-bolts aspects of story creation. More ›

Hey Matt! There's a Reason We Write Like Every Day!

February 2007
Molly Toussant
Toussant's piece is directed toward one of her students who wonders why he has to write every day. She goes on to show him how her teaching practices result from her five guiding beliefs about writing. More ›

Beyond Handbooks and Textbooks—Teaching About Writing

September 2007
Randy Koch
Composition instructor Randy Koch argues that the guidance given by most writing handbooks is too general to be useful to students, who need to be taught such basics as how to vary sentence structure and how to show rather than tell—before they start writing their first draft. More ›

The How of Writing: First-Graders Learn Craft

The Quarterly, 2005
Glorianne Bradshaw
For her first grade class, Bradshaw adapts techniques she learns from upper grade teachers, working with Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books. The techniques include sentence modeling, show not tell, onomatopoeia, the "good beginning," and others. More ›

The Process Approach to Writing Instruction: Examining Its Effectiveness

Handbook of Writing Research , 2005
More ›

Book Review: Felt Sense: Writing with the Body, by Sondra Perl

The Quarterly, 2004
Sheridan Blau
Sheridan Blau reviews Sondra Perl's Felt Sense: Writing with the Body, a book that guides writers to gain access to preverbal intuitive knowledge through attention to bodily experience. More ›

Book Review: About the Authors, by Katie Wood Ray with Lisa B. Cleaveland

The Quarterly, 2004
Sherry Dolgoff
Sherry Dolgoff reviews About the Authors: Writing Workshops with Our Youngest Writers, by Katie Wood Ray with Lisa B. Cleaveland, a book for teachers of kindergarten through second grade that specifies how to set up the classroom, how to introduce and teach writing to younger children, and how to assess the final products. More ›

Driving Home at Midnight in a Dense Fog: Using Metaphor to Explore Writing Processes

The Quarterly, 2004
Christian Knoeller
Knoeller wants his college students to appreciate that metaphor provides a way of understanding everyday concepts. He illustrates this notion by demonstrating how students use metaphor to dig into what they do when they write. More ›

Uncovering Truths Beneath a Found Poem

The Quarterly, 2004
John Hundley
Hundley explains how he uses what could have been a throwaway day to help his students create "found poems," showing how a collaborative, student-centered learning environment promotes success. More ›

Writing a Bicycle

The Quarterly, 2004
Kathleen O'Shaughnessy
O'Shaughnessy, a teacher of teachers, offers tips and exercises for other leaders of workshops so that the process of sharing classroom expertise can become easier for all. More ›

Writing in the Wilderness Without a Guide: How Not to Use Journals in the College Composition Classroom

The Quarterly, 2004
John Levine
The proprietary value of a journal is lost on students who don't know what journals are all about. In this article, John Levine shares his struggle to direct his students toward meaningful journal writing. More ›

Writing Spaces: Expanding the One-Story House

The Quarterly, 2004
Elizabeth Leiknes
The principles of the writing process are everywhere. Leiknes makes the connection between her efforts to create a new home and what her students need to know about developing a piece of writing. More ›

Book Review: Within and Beyond the Writing Process..., by Dornan, Rosen & Wilson

The Quarterly, 2003
Christian Knoeller
Christian Knoeller reviews Within and Beyond the Writing Process in the Secondary English Classroom by Reade W. Dornan, Lois Matz Rosen, and Marilyn Wilson. He finds it a forward-looking book that not only addresses such issues as the place of grammar in a process-based classroom and the teaching of conventional genres of school writing, but also forges important connections between diverse pedagogies and approaches. More ›

TR 29. Negotiating Academic Discourse

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, 2003
Linda Flower
This report discusses the difficulties experienced by many college freshmen as they seek to negotiate the transition from a writing process based on comprehension and response to a more fully rhetorical, constructive process. More ›

From Communion to Communication: Connecting Heart and Brain in the Learning Process

The Quarterly, Spring 2003
Richard L. Graves, Sherry Swain
In this case study, Sherry Swain and Richard Graves demonstrate the idea that for skill learning to stick it needs to have an emotional component. "Learning at its best grows out of the moment . . . it is both communal and individual and . . . it occurs naturally." Working with first-grader DeScott and his classmates, the authors illustrate how their "dialogic" approach leads students to take chances and experiment with language much in advance of grade level expectations. More ›

Because Writing Matters: A Book That Shares What We Know

The Quarterly, Winter 2003
Art Peterson
This NWP book pulls together the concepts that have generated the successful practice of writing project teachers and makes the case for what needs to be done to advance the teaching of writing in schools. More ›

Book Review: Teaching Powerful Writing, by Bob Sizoo

The Quarterly, Winter 2003
Pen Campbell
Campbell compares Sizoo's book to a homemade fruit cake packed with short, well-crafted personal narratives by teachers and professional writers and a wealth of practical tools for teaching. More ›

Completing the Paradigm Shift to Process Writing: The Need to Lead

The Quarterly, Winter 2003
Samuel Totten
According to Totten, writing reforms have not brought a "paradigm shift" in the way writing is taught. He details how, with the leadership and support of districts and administrators, this can happen. More ›

Creative Copying, or in Defense of Mimicry

The Quarterly, Fall 2002
Rebecca Dierking
A student question about the difference between plagiarism and mimicry leads Dierking to a deeper understanding of her students' need for clarity. More ›

Who, What, When, and Where of Writing Rituals

The Quarterly, Fall 2002
Kathleen O'Shaughnessy, Connie McDonald, Harriet Maher, Ann Dobie
The writers identify such categories as environment, time, and behavior as variables in writing rituals and touch on the importance of ritual in reducing anxiety, increasing fluency, and increasing power and control. More ›

Imitation as Freedom: (Re)Forming Student Writing

The Quarterly, Spring 2002
Paul Butler
Butler argues that, although the use of imitation to developing good writing has been waning in the composition classroom, this approach still has beneficial applications and "we should look to see the general value of using model and imitation." More ›

Imitation in Progress

The Quarterly, Spring 2002
Sherry Swain
Swain provides a poem generated by teachers at a workshop in Mississippi who used Nancy Wood's poem "The Way to Hair Silence" to study its devices and apply her form to their own content. More ›

Waiting It Out: Months of Writing in a First Grade Classroom

The Quarterly, Spring 2002
Debra E. Weller
This case study concludes with a piece of advice for teachers at all grade levels who see only limited progress as students work through their writing processes: be patient. More ›

Book Review: Lighting Fires: How the Passionate Teacher Engages Adolescent Writers

The Quarterly, Winter 2002
Kerry A. Hoffman
Hoffman says that this book by Joseph Tsujimoto "offers a view of how one teachers challenges students' imaginations and creativity through meaningful writing exercises, providing students with countless opportunities to improve their craft." More ›

An Opportunity on Elm Street

Turning Points in Teaching: Narrative Reflection on Professional Practice, 2001
Brett Stonebrick
Brett Stonebrick, a teacher-consultant with the Oregon Writing Project at the University of Willamette, describes a breakthrough that occurred in his thinking about student-generated topics when he opened up to the desire of an uncooperative and underperforming first-grader to discuss and write about a slasher movie. More ›

Writing Within a Community

The Voice, January-February 2001
Kim Bridgford
Kim Bridgford describes how the act of sharing writing—with just one person or a group—gives writers necessary feedback and provides them with a sense of the larger community. More ›

Everything I Know About Teaching Language Arts I Learned at the Office Supply Store

The Quarterly, Spring 2001
Kathleen O'Shaughnessy
O'Shaughnessy describes classroom practices using ordinary office supplies that help her feel competent and in control of her classroom. More ›

The Writing Process Rejected

The Quarterly, Spring 2001
Orlean R. Anderson
By providing examples of student composition methods from his own classroom, Anderson makes the case that "the" writing process is a dangerous misnomer. In fact, each individual has his or her own writing process. More ›

Working with Beginning Writers

The Quarterly, Summer 2001
Alisa Daniel
Daniel writes that students need to see their teachers write. They need to see the struggles and the thought processes that begin in the writer's mind and end up on the paper. More ›

Back to Square One: What To Do When Writing Workshop Just Doesn't Work

The Quarterly, Winter 2001
Glorianne Bradshaw
More ›

Reflective Friday: Time Out to Think

The Quarterly, Fall 2000
Kim Douillard
Once a week, Douillard leads her students through a series of reflective strategies that involve brainstorming, reflective writing, sharing, imagining, dialogue journaling, and more. More ›

Struggling to Compose: How Children Regard Themselves as Writers

The Quarterly, Fall 2000
Anne Alpert
Alpert decided that instead of asking her students questions about their writing, she would ask them questions about how they saw themselves as writers. More ›

How Did You Do That? The Secrets of Strong Writers

The Quarterly, Spring 2000
Dean Smith
Smith searches for some of the commonalities of strong writing among his students: a clear focus, developed ideas, sentence variety, voice, and few mechanical errors that get in the way of comprehension. More ›

Lessons in Literacy: What a Five-Year-Old Taught Her Teacher-Mom

The Quarterly, Spring 2000
Eve Newsome
Newsome, a teacher and a mother, isolates elements that helped her five-year-old to grow in literacy: exposure to language, availability of tools from books to pencils, and opportunities to write. More ›

Peterson's Credo

The Quarterly, Spring 2000
Alina Sivorinovsky
Siviornovksy, a professional writer who was a former student of NWP editor Art Peterson, reminisces about some advice her former teacher gave her: "Think about what you want to say." More ›

Teaching in Two Worlds: Critical Reflection and Teacher Change in the Writing Center

The Quarterly, Spring 2000
Dale Jacobs
Jacobs reflects on ways his experience working in a college writing center led him to revise his approach to classroom teaching, leading him to a pedagogy that was more student centered and focused on individuals. More ›

My Laptop Ambivalence: Some Speed Bumps on the High-Tech Road to Writing

The Quarterly, Summer 2000
Susan Cvengros Mortensen
Mortensen details and evaluates the transition of her seventh grade writing students as they adapt to the use of laptop computers. More ›

See You Next Year: The Writing Process in the Looping Classroom

The Quarterly, Winter 2000
Alisa Daniel
Daniel recommends a classroom configuration that allows writing teachers to keep early grade students for two years—better to build on what they have learned as well as to create classroom community. More ›

Book Review: How to Catch a Shark, by Donald Graves

The Quarterly, Fall 1999
Bob Sizoo
Book reviewer Bob Sizoo states, "In To Catch a Shark, Don Graves examines his own learning -- but not those lessons during his formal education. Rather he probes the experiences and relationships in which he learned valuable lessons outside of school." More ›

The Truth About Lightning Bugs: What Our Children Know

The Quarterly, Spring 1999
Kim Patterson
Patterson argues that students from rural and economically deprived backgrounds come to school with valuable experience to share. The teacher's job is to find ways to use this knowledge and experience. More ›

Writing Workshop and Real-World Learning: A Deweyian Perspective

The Quarterly, Summer 1999
Jo-Anne Kerr
In this case study, Kerr links the theory of John Dewey to the format of writing workshop. Students develop into proficient writers while also learning life skills useful in contributing to society. More ›

Sustaining Urgency

The Quarterly, Winter 1999
Jan Isenhour
Isenhour has some ideas about keeping the momentum going in writing class: avoid chitchat with the students, write yourself, give students an immediate opportunity to share work. More ›

Book Review: In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning, by Atwell

The Quarterly, Fall 1998
Chris Street
Street finds this new edition of Atwell's book to be thorough in every respect, from its detailing of minilessons to its inclusion of 17 appendices. More ›

Let's Take Another Look at the Fish: The Writing Process as Discovery

The Quarterly, Fall 1998
Bob Tierney
Tierney describes some writing strategies that place concepts of a lesson in long-term memory by building connections to what students know and linking to their emotional concerns. More ›

Scribe to the Prophet

The Quarterly, Spring 1998
Kim Stafford
As a writer, says Stafford, "it is not my work so much to invent as to record the stories of the world," making use of "the voice of anyone I overhear" and being the witness of "anything I see." More ›

The Parallel Universes of Theory and Practice: One Teacher's Journey

The Quarterly, Spring 1998
Beverly Paesano
Frustrated that the traditional approaches she'd been taught "did not help children write more fluently," the author describes her evolution as she came to understand the work of Britton, Moffett, and others. More ›

Pruning Too Early: The Thorny Issue of Grading Student Writing

The Quarterly, Fall 1997
Stephanie Wilder
Wilder creates an analogy comparing cutting back a garden as it is in the process of maturing to grading a student paper while it is still evolving and in a revisable state. More ›

Surfing the Net: A Writing Workshop for Middle School

The Quarterly, Summer 1997
Jean Boreen
Boreen makes a case for the need to prepare preservice and beginning teachers to use computers as learning tools in writing classrooms. More ›

Writing for the Rest of Us

The Quarterly, Spring 1996
Art Peterson
In this introduction to his Writers Workout Book Peterson defends the notion that the ability to write is not so much a gift as a skill that can be taught. More ›

The Letter Exchange: Balancing Responsibility in the Writing Classroom

The Quarterly, Winter 1996
Margaret Perrow
Perrow has her college students write her regular letters pertaining to the course. She responds in a single letter that is part cheerleading, part attention to common writing problems, and part explicit statement about responsibility. More ›

Revisited article: One Student's Writing Process

The Quarterly, Winter 1995
Alice Kawazoe
Kawazoe describes the process through which a response partner helps a Cambodian English language learner to tell his story; then she looks into the essence of dialogue as a technique for teaching writing. More ›

Revisited article: Worshipping False Gods

The Quarterly, Winter 1995
Bob Niebuhr
Niebuhr lays out what it means to be a "process teacher." More ›

Mozartians, Beethovians, and the Teaching of Writing

The Quarterly, Spring 1993
Diane Christian Boehm
In this essay from 1993, Diane Christian Boehm directly confronts the myth of the sequential writing process, finding that writers create as "Mozartians" or "Beethovians," or sometimes a little of both. Agreeing with Donald Murray, she claims that "Our job... is not to teach students how to write, but to teach how to teach themselves to write." That is, we need to help each of our students find a writing process that works for her. More ›

TR 59. Constructing a Research Paper: A Study of Students' Goals and Approaches

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, 1992
Jennie Nelson
This study of twenty-one college freshmen considers the processes involved in writing an academic research paper in order to determine whether "high-investment" reading and writing processes such as note-taking led to higher-quality papers. More ›

TR 63. "Whistle for Willie," Lost Puppies, and Cartoon Dogs: The Sociocultural Dimensions of Young Children's Composing, or Toward Unmelting Pedagogical Pots

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, 1992
Anne Haas Dyson
Drawing on data from an urban elementary school, Dyson suggests that the "process" approach to teaching writing may be too rigidly implemented to allow for the needs of young writers in multicultural classrooms. More ›

OP 25. Peeking Out from Under the Blinders: Some Factors We Shouldn't Forget in Studying Writing

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Occasional Paper, 1991
John R. Hayes
This essay reminds educators and researchers of the range of factors that have a crucial impact on how writers write. It combats a narrowing of focus as researchers become preoccupied with more specialized research interests. More ›

TR 53. The Case of the Singing Scientist: A Performance Perspective on the "Stages" of School Literacy

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, 1991
Anne Haas Dyson
This case study looks at an African-American child in an urban K/1 classroom who used writing activities to perform, rather than simply to communicate. The study examines the links between oral performance and literacy pedagogy. More ›

TR 17. Written Rhetorical Syntheses: Processes and Products

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, January 1989
Margaret Kantz
Kantz analyzes the composing processes and written products of three undergraduates and gives quantitative analyses of a group of seventeen undergraduate research papers. More ›

TR 20. Forms of Writing and Rereading from Writing: A Preliminary Report

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, July 1989
June Barnhart, Joyce Hieshima, Elizabeth Sulzby
The authors report on a study of young children's use of five emergent forms of writing—scribble, drawing, nonphonetic letter strings, phonetic or invented spelling, and conventional orthography. More ›

TR 32. Foundations for Creativity in the Writing Process: Rhetorical Representations of Ill-defined Problems

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, June 1989
Linda J. Carey, Linda Flower
This paper examines the composing process of expert writers working in expository genres. Taking a problem-solving perspective, the authors address the concept of creativity in writing as it is embedded in ordinary cognitive processes. More ›

TR 30. Expanding the Repertoire: An Anthology of Practical Approaches for the Teaching of Writing

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, May 1989
Kathleen McCormick
These classroom approaches help students explore their assumptions about their reading and writing processes, become more aware of the cognitive and cultural implications of their choices, and find alternative approaches to the writing task. More ›

OP 04. The Construction of Purpose in Writing and Reading

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Occasional Paper, 1988
Linda Flower
This paper discusses two interrelated concerns: how writers find their sense of purpose, and whether readers are aware of or are affected by writers' purposeful text construction. More ›

TR 09. Individual Differences in Beginning Composing: An Orchestral Vision of Learning to Write

National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Technical Report, August 1987
Anne Haas Dyson
Looking in depth at three first-graders during classroom journal time, Dyson explores the interconnections of the children's speaking, writing, and drawing as indications of their developing acquisition of written language. More ›

Teaching Writing Processes and Determining Grades

The Quarterly, June 1986
David A. England
More ›

Teacher Concerns about Writing: Response from a Project Fellow

The Quarterly, January 1985
Betty Ann Slesinger
More ›

The End is not the Means

The Quarterly, January 1985
Melvin Longmire
More ›

Does Theory Make a Difference?

The Quarterly, March 1982
Don Gallehr
More ›

Book Review - How a Writer Works, by Roger Garrison

The Quarterly, February 1981
Mary A. Quinn
More ›

Phillips Exeter Academy: A Writing Program

The Quarterly, February 1981
Norval Rindfleisch
More ›

Book Review 1: Student-Centered Language Arts and Reading, by Moffett and Wagner

The Quarterly, February 1980
Thomas Newkirk
More ›

Teachers' Writing

The Quarterly, May 1980
Tom Bremmer, Kate Blickhahn, Florence Lewis, J.Dennis Robinson
More ›

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