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Writing Without Teachers

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  290 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In Writing Without Teachers, well-known advocate of innovative teaching methods Peter Elbow outlines a practical program for learning how to write. His approach is especially helpful to people who get stuck or blocked in their writing, and is equally useful for writing fiction, poetry, and essays, as well as reports, lectures, and memos. The core of Elbow's thinking is a c ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 25th 1998 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1973)
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This was essentially required reading for the workshopping group that I'm in. While a lot of the techniques in the book will be familiar to people who have been in workshop groups before (decentralized teaching methods, open discussions, circular seating and all that), the emphasis of things like open freewriting exercises, a bravery in one's drafts, and the vast importance in being willing to let yourself make big mistakes and try new things with one's writing can't be appreciated enough. Those ...more
Adam Bessie
Influential, though a little dated now.
Mark Feltskog
This is a book of some stature and is held in high esteem, so I suppose I commit something like heresy when I find myself mystified as to why--and articulate the question. Professor Elbow, if I understand him correctly, is a proponent of "process writing," which is all to the good. While I am in general skeptical of a pure process approach (for I am, alas, what some would call, hyperbolically, a "grammar nazi"), I see its merits. My problems with this book are twofold: first there is the argumen ...more
The title of Peter Elbow’s classic Writing Without Teachers suggests the book as a curious choice for review by this actual teacher of writing. But, as Elbow makes clear in his introduction, by implementing many of the principles he discusses in this book into his own classroom, he’s created more dynamic learning environments that have led him to conclude that “teachers learn to be more useful when it is clearer that they are not necessary” (x). At it’s heart, the premise of Writing Without Teac ...more
I think Elbow has given us a lot of good in helping students to not be scared of writing crap and just write something first. That being said, I think Elbow’s perhaps naïve carelessness about generic differences is truly hampering. Perhaps Elbow would have framed the genres would have been more individual-based, but the problem remains. The same piece of writing that is boring and pointless to a fourteen-year-old skateboarder [Elbow encourages even “young children” (113) in the writing group] m ...more
Scott Lee
This is a very useful book. I find the idea of the teacherless writing class fascinating, although it seems slightly passe and over-argued, mostly because the format described (essentially successful writing workshop) has much greater currency than it did at the time of Elbow's writing.

Elbow argues cogently for his variation of the workshop format, and as I am reading this (among other composition classics [Lindeman, Murray, Bartholomae, Yancey, etc.]) to prepare a senior level composition cours
Peter Elbow sets out in Writing Without Teachers “to show [writers both inside and outside schools] how to gain control over words,” though doing so “requires working hard and finding others to work with you” (vii). The major advice of Elbow’s first chapter is regular “freewriting exercises”: ten-minute periods of “nonedit[ed]” writing that he presents as a method of giving life to a writer’s voice and writing by cutting through “interruptions, changes, and hesitations” (3-6). His second and thi ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Peter Elbow is not only a teacher but he is a master in his field. He doesn't wander away like most of them do but you had better pay attention to every jot and tittle in his book for the master is speaking and he weighs his words carefully and if you know how to listen you will be mentored by one of the top men in the field of writing. This is a book I would be willing to purchase and put on my bookshelf with pride. And so appears for the rest of every other work he wrote. Too bad buy lots of b ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Kristina added it
Shelves: about-writing
I'd only read portions of this for some graduate classes I'd taken, but Elbow has many a terrific idea to spare and some good techniques I can't wait to try in writing workshops.
This is a very important book, but Peter Elbow's prose style drove me bananas. He writes in a very condescending tone and he repeats the same points over and over.
Elbow belabors his points a bit, but this book is a good read for anyone involved in any kind of writing group, teacherless or otherwise. His argument for keeping an open mind (playing the "believing game") is a reminder to allow the group meetings to progress in a gentler, more lenient way than most workshops are used to. Though ultimately he advocates for a healthy balance between belief and doubt, it seems most writers could benefit more from erring on the side of belief. It would save a few ...more
I first encountered Elbow in one of the first grad seminars I took, and I was struck by how *fun* it was to read his prose.

I only wish I'd read this before I began teaching composition as he has a very interesting way of teaching the composing process. This would also have been helpful for me as a writer who encounters writer's block.
Great little book! Helped me get through my writer's block. The book is proposing a way to improve as a writer by writing something each week and finding a dedicated group of people that can give each other feedback. I haven't quite gotten that far, but the introductory chapters on how to write were invaluable.
Mary Anne
Jan 06, 2014 Mary Anne rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mary Anne by: Deanna
I guess I just didn't really get the significance of this book. It might be because I'm a writing instructor. I think a lot of his strategies are useful, but I felt more connection with Writing With Power. But fair enough.
Monica David
Dec 30, 2007 Monica David rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writing teachers and/or writers
Andrew Ratner recommended this book while he was advising me on my action research project. Since my proposal focuses on creating more independent, self-driven learners and writers, the book was useful in advice on establishing a "teacherless writing class". Intriguing and intimidating.
This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in learning to write without getting hung up from perspective of writer's block, internal editing, etc. It's main intention is to form 'teacherless' writing groups to provide feedback, but even without that forum, it's very useful
Elbow presents a very interesting and inovative approach to writing which I would stongly suggest at least trying. His ideas about critique are gentle and inclusive.
I didn't really like his particular style of writing (the text of the book) but the content was valuable to me.
There's a lot of common sense in here, but a lot of useful info as well - particularly his final essay on the doubting game vs the believing game, while a little overdone, gave me a lot to think about as far as how I come to conclusions.
quirky writing style. mostly i like it because he talks about hos to hold a writing group. i have been working in a group using his method for the past 4 months now and it's awesome. really honest and fun and not touchy or weird.
This had some good ideas for teaching, or more broadly, writing in community. The essay at the end is draggy but has a good point. I'd recommend it for people who are in or want to start any kind of writing group or class.
This was my second time around reading this book. Like the first time I saw what it was trying to teach me. How to find my own kind of writing that would bring out the writer in me and I enjoyed it for the most
Mar 31, 2008 Theodora rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Theodora by: my boss
Shelves: books08, writing
This book saved my butt.

This book helped me remember that in order to write, I have to produce a lot of bad things first. It cut down the perfectionist in me. Very helpful.
An interesting take on the necessity of freewriting. An enjoyable book for the most part, but slightly self-promoting in the preface and appendix.
This is the best book I have ever read on the creative process of writing. Every aspiring writer should read this book.
ian mar
this book was just saying to me over and over:

"dont think so much you dummy"

and i sort of appreciated that!
I didn't think it lived up to what people have told me about how great it is-- but I really liked the essay at the end.
Diah Didi
Dec 17, 2012 Diah Didi marked it as to-read-owned
Shelves: own, pending
baru baca beberapa bab sih, lumayan sebetulnya, tapi apapun itu, kuncinya kan emang latihan dan disiplin ...
Mary Alice
Yep, after reading this I fall into the category of teacherless writing. :)
This was assigned for a college writing course; would like to re-visit it.
Slightly helpful, slightly confusing. Stopping at 78 pages in!
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  • Writing Fiction Step by Step
  • Writing Alone and with Others
  • Writing Toward Home: Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way
  • Breathing In, Breathing Out: Keeping a Writer's Notebook
  • The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing
  • Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively
  • The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America's Greatest Writing Teacher
  • Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise Into Practice
  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
  • Plot
  • In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading, and Learning
  • Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America's Educationally Un derprepared
  • What's the Big Idea?: Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking
  • The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present
  • Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments
  • The Art of Teaching Reading
  • Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student
  • Making Shapely Fiction
Peter Elbow is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is best known for his work in writing theory, practice, and pedagogy.

Elbow is the author of several books, including Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching (Oxford UP, 1986), Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process (Oxford UP, 1981), Writing Without Teachers (O
More about Peter Elbow...
Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process Everyone Can Write: Essays Toward a Hopeful Theory of Writing and Teaching Writing Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing A Community of Writers: A Workshop Course in Writing Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching

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“The deepest dependency is not of students upon teachers, but of teachers upon students.” 1 likes
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