Adult Ed
Freewriting: Developing Fluency in Student Writing



"What should I write about?"
"I don't know anything about the topic."
"I don't know how to say it."
"How can I write if I can't spell?"
"I can read, but I can't write."

Getting students to write fluently is the first and most important step in getting past comments like these. Fluency is probably the most essential part of teaching basic writing. A student struggling for long periods of time over a few tangled lines, erasing, scratching out, using the dictionary too often, and crumbling up reams of notebook paperů These are all-too-common occurrences in writing classes. Freewriting, a technique presented by the great writing teacher Peter Elbow, offers students and teachers a way to overcome that frustration. This lesson explains how to use Elbow's techniques, and some variations, with adult learners, from beginning levels up through GED instruction.

Subject Matter

  • Writing: autobiography, exposition, personal narrative, argumentation, comparison and contrast, content review, response, and revision.


Students will be able to:
  • Write more fluently (write more and with greater ease)
  • Generate writing topics
  • Select topics that will yield strong pieces of writing
  • Connect personal experience, knowledge, and examples to an assigned topic
  • Start a piece of writing
  • Respond to other students' writing

National Reporting Systems


Pencils, pens, index cards, unlined paper and paper for writing. Folders, notebooks, or files for students to save their work will also be needed.

Media Components

Here are some Web sites that can tell you more about freewriting. These sites offer some interesting variations on the technique. Some suggest other techniques that build on the foundation of freewriting. Some of these sites give some background on Peter Elbow, the "inventor" of freewriting.

You may also wish to look at Peter Elbow's WRITING WITHOUT TEACHERS:

  • Elbow, Peter. WRITING WITHOUT TEACHERS. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.