I agree that most students fear writing. However, I have found lots of practice, using graphic organizers for prewriting, and individual mini-conferences with each student while the others are working independently or in small groups helps tremendously. I also believe in giving students a choice of essay topic as if they enjoy what they are writing about they are more motivated. Whether it involves a novel, a persausive topic, or research topic, providing students with a choice allows them to feel more in control and not as overwhelmed.
Before we talk about editing, I cannot stress the importance of pre-writing! I tutor tons of students of all ages and you would be suprised at how many either were never taught how to prewrite (concept maps, brainstorming, outlining etc) or were taught but still have no idea how to use this tool. Pre-writing allows students to focus on the topic and also to structure their writing so that it progresses logicially. No matter what the grade level from elmentary to high school, pre-writing is extremely effective and necessary. In addition, once students complete their pre-writing they gain confidence that the actual essay writing comes a lot easier.
Finally, to address the individual min conferences, I am pretty detailed in my annotating of mistakes but not only do I acknowledge the mistakes, I also offer examples of how to fix them or rewrite the sentence. At the end of every student’s paper I bullet point the strengths and weaknesses of the essay. This helps the students see what they did well and what the need to improve on. Unfortunately, if you don’t conference with students, many will just look at the grade and never look at the essay again. All my experience has been been in the middle and high school RSP English department so my classes have been a lot smaller than the average English class. It is too bad that not all students can have such small classes as I know conferencing and grading takes an exorbitant amount of time.