Over the last couple of years I have occasionally had students submit written work produced with word processing equipment. I insist on a "paperless" process where students mail first drafts to me as email attachments, I mail these drafts back to them with my comments, and final versions go through the same procedure. Apart from saving trees, this process has the advantage of providing me with a digital portfolio of student work, since I save first drafts as well as final versions in folders for each student.
This article deals with the teacher's least favorite part of the process: marking up and correcting the texts. First I should point out, however, that I do not really claim to be using process oriented writing in the strict sense. The students' work goes through a "process", but I deviate from the "true path" by commenting on and correcting vocabulary and grammar as well as larger issues concerning ideas and organization in first drafts. In my opinion, if you want to comment on vocabulary and grammar at all, the only sensible stage at which to do that is before final versions are produced. We all know how little attention students pay to these comments when they know that they will not be able to improve their grades by correcting mistakes.
How do you add your brilliant comments when you can no longer use your red-ink pen? I have partly solved that problem by creating - in MSWord97 - a toolbar with customized buttons for inserting comments on the the most frequently occurring types of mistakes. The image below shows my "grammar" toolbar with the 20 buttons, starting with "Add", "Adj.", and "Adv.", and ending with "W.O" and "Word".
Clicking on the second one, for example, inserts the word adjective where the cursor is, in red font size 9. At the beginning of the term I hand out to students explanations for the various comments, and they now have to figure out what kind of adjective mistake this is and how to correct it. In addition to these 20 standard comments I naturally write comments at the end of the text (usually in red too), and I use footnotes (Ctrl+Alt+F). A section of a first draft then might look something like this:
Apart from saving me the work of actually typing out the comments, this looks a lot neater than any text with my handwriting on it ever will - just ask my students about that!
Making the customized toolbar takes just a few minutes once you have decided what buttons you need. The following explanations use the Norwegian version of MSWord97. Begin by typing in a Word document the auto text that you want to insert, in the font face and size in which you want it to appear in the students' texts. Then select one such auto text entry and go to the top menu and click Sett inn ---> Autotekst --->Ny - and paste it in. Do the same thing with all of the entries. Next you make the new toolbar by choosing on the top menu Verktøy ---> Tilpass ---> Verktøylinjer ---> Ny. Give the new toolbar a name. Keep the same dialogue box open for the next step, but instead of Verktøylinjer select Kommandoer ---> Autotekst. Scroll through the auto text entries until you find the new entries you created in step 1. Simply drag and drop these entries one at a time into the new toolbar you created. The default name for any new button that you create on the toolbar will be same as the auto text entry itself. Usually it is better to have a shorter name on the button. Rightclicking on the button gives you a menu where one of the choices is Navn. When you have dragged and dropped all the entries into the toolbar you can drag the toolbar to the top of screen. Whether you want it to be visible you choose on the main menu Vis ---> Verktøylinjer.
Feel free to email me if you have questions about this.
More advanced programs for this kind of mark-up are available on the Internet. One example is Markin32, a shareware program that sells for around $30. This can turn marked-up student texts into interactive web pages with links to definitions and comments. To me this is the kind of program that it makes sense to test and maybe develop further. Whether students' writing gets any better as a result of this approach compared to more conventional ways of working is difficult to tell. A recent article in Klikk, "Skriver vi bedre ved hjelp av data?", seems to indicate that it does not. I would be interested to know what experiences other teachers have using ICT in the writing process.