To Organize or Not?

July 9, 2018 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

To write in complete sentences or use bullet point ideas? That is the question! This question has plagued me for years. Do I ask students write in complete sentences to then transfer their ideas to a formal format or do I ask that they jot their ideas down and turn it into a rough draft?

As a young writer, I became bogged down and frustrated at having to plan my writing! Why should I write everything down before I write everything down? I find that students, especially those who struggle with writing, don’t want to write down their ideas in complete sentences. In addition, ideas start to develop as the writing unfolds and being held captive to one graphic organizer can stunt a more well rounded paper.

This begs the question, should graphic organizers even be used? Unequivocally and with a resounding answer, I believe, YES! Students need to be able to hone the what, when, who, and purpose for the their text. This requires planning. But maybe the planning process doesn’t have to be so cumbersome.  I have found rehearsal, simple graphic organizers,  illustrating, and free writing lends a hand to a solid rough draft.

When a student rehearses his idea to a teacher (or mentor student) then all the crooks and nannies get ironed out. The listener gets to asks probing questions like, “Where are your characters?” or “What are you trying to tell your audience?” or “Why do you think that?”. The writer gets to hear himself think out loud and find the missing pieces of information that they’ll need to include. Additionally, as the listener probes and listens, she can reiterate what was just said. This allows the story teller to hear his story which creates imagery in his head and facilitates memory in order to write it all down.

Simple graphic organizer are a great tool for having students really organize their thinking. Putting his thoughts into categories helps him develop this category on a deeper level.  For example, if a student is writing a paper on bats, he’ll need to siphon his topic down to three main points: eating, habitat, and behaviors. Putting bullets points underneath each main topic ensures that all the ideas are used in an organized fashion. While this method requires writing, it’s not so cumbersome that the writer is exhausted when asked to put pencil to paper using lengthy sentences.

Illustrations allows students to express their ideas in words. The tricky part of using this tool is to make sure that the text matches their picture. If a student wants to draw a snowy day but then starts writing about hot chocolate, the hot chocolate needs to be in the picture. This can be done using multiple pieces of paper for different scenes, or comic strip boxes, or just a free for all drawing. In any case, the picture needs to have a who, a what, a where, and if possible, the why, illustrated to drive the text.

Lastly, if a student is given a focal point then free writing may be the way to approach ideas. For instance, a student may be looking at a Japanese Internment Camp and already has a vast knowledge on the subject OR  can just use his descriptive writing to free write all that comes to him. I find that setting a timer and giving a limit to how long a student is asked to write for a helpful tool for both resistant as well as prolific writers.  Free writes can be a great way to open the flood gate of ideas and just enjoy the process of writing. While this takes initiative, I find that most students enjoy this freedom.

After all is said and done, it’s important to get your ideas out on paper (or computer). We’ll worry about the editing process next week!

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Remedial Handwriting The most important 5 minutes of my day

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