Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Studies and Suggestions on Prewriting Activities

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Studies and Suggestions on Prewriting Activities

Article excerpt


This paper studies and suggests the need for writing instruction by which students can experience writing as a creative process in exploring and communicating meaning. The prewriting activities generate ideas which can encourage a free flow of thoughts and help students discover both what they want to say and how to say it on paper. Through the activation of the formal schema, students can understand how to organize the material according to the requirements of the writing task and the general structure of the English composition. The authors choose a writing task in College English as an example to show the teaching procedure in the prewriting process. Through the instruction of the writing task on an argumentation, the authors summarize the essential steps of the teaching of English prewriting activities.

Keywords: Prewriting activities, College English writing, Teaching

1. Introduction

English has become a sure access to information of all sorts and an indispensable means of international communication. The emphasis on EFL teaching has also shifted from purely structured competence to communicative competence - from the ability to merely manipulate the linguistic structure correctly to the ability to use the language to communicate in both spoken and written forms.

These changes have altered people's thinking of EFL writing. It's no longer just a means to test or reinforce what a foreign language learner has learned, but a necessary tool for the learner to communicate with people in the real world. Therefore, the teaching of EFL writing has also seen some dramatic changes during recent years, and more attention and researches have focused on the enrichment of theories on writing. There are several effective approaches to teaching writing, for instances: the product approach, the process approach, the genre approach, and the genre process approach. Among them, the process approach is the most widely accepted one in many foreign countries and has proved to be more effective in improving learner's writing abilities.

In the process theorists' point of view, well-written essays are the fruits of a long, laborious, intensely personal process of thinking, verbal communication, and an interactive, socio-cognitive behavior. Meaning is not thought up and then written down. The act of writing is an act of thought. Language and thought are inseparable. They are processes in which writers must address questions, ranging from "What do I write about?" to "Who is my audience?" to "How do I structure my essay?" to "What sort of language and voice should I use?" Murray (1993: 346) holds that writing should be treated as a process, i.e., "a series of steps or stages an author goes through to develop a piece of writing." Tribble (1996: 160) defines the process approach as "an approach to the teaching of writing which stresses the creativity of the individual writer, and which pays attention to the development of good writing practices rather than the imitation of models". Thus, the focus shifts from the final product itself to the different stages the writer goes through in order to create this product by breaking down the task as a whole into its constituent parts. Writing becomes less daunting and more manageable to the EFL students.

The principal features of the process approach are (Doust, C., 1986): (1) A view of writing as a recursive process that can be taught; (2) An emphasis on writing as a way of learning as well as communicating; (3) A willingness to draw on other disciplines, notably cognitive psychology; (4) The incorporation of a context, a view that writing includes a sense of audience, purpose, and occasion; (5) A procedure for feedback that encourages the instructor to intervene during the process (formative evaluation), and so aid the student to improve his/her first or initial drafts; (6) A method of evaluation that determines how well a written product adapts the goals of the writer to the needs of the reader as audience; (7) The principle that writing teachers should be people who write. …

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