Organizing thoughts into a fluent piece of writing is a challenge for most, if not all, writers at some point in time. It can be frustrating to know what you want to say, but struggle to put those thoughts into a coherent, interesting piece of writing. Reading articles or books in which professional writers discuss their personal methods for overcoming this dilemma is always informative, and often can help provide suggestions to make organization easier. However, finding methods and materials that will fit into a middle school class period offers a different set of challenges. Two of the best methods for focusing student writing are the graphic organizer and the writing journal. I go over the use of both with my students, but they are encouraged to choose the method that works best for them.
Graphic organizers help students to place their thoughts in a logical order. They can then use these ideas to develop narratives, compositions, and essays. As a sixth grade teacher, I have my students use a variety of organizers, and have them experiment with what works best for them. Some of the graphic organizers students might use include spider maps, t-charts, and timelines. Finding what works best for each student is the key.
In addition to using graphic organizers, students also keep writing journals. This is a place where students can keep lists, thoughts, and ideas. I also have students keep writing maps and notes on writing projects in their journals, so they can review and revise their information on a daily basis during the duration of a project. Once students have a collection of ideas and information in their journals, students can then use some form of graphic organizer.
After students have outlined their ideas, I give them a rubric to guide the revision and editing process. My favorite rubric resource is Rubistar. It is a free rubric website where you can create a rubric, or use a prefabricated one. I not only use rubrics for evaluating writing assignments, but also for student checklists. When students know what I am looking for, they know what to revise and edit. By using a combination of journals, graphic organizers, and rubrics students can keep their writing fluent and focused. The idea is that students will automatically turn to graphic organizers, their journals, or other resources when they are finding their ideas and words difficult to express. More writing worksheets and writing lesson plans can be found below.
This lesson uses a writer’s checklist to discover the key elements of composition. Students review the writing process, correct mistakes, and make a piece of writing more interesting. A writing rubric could be added in order to focus students' attention on specific edits and revisions.
This is another lesson that uses a writer’s checklist to practice pre-writing techniques in order to focus student writing. The specific organizing technique utilized in this lesson is clustering. The basic idea in this lesson can be used with other organizing methods and checklists.
Students use a worksheet and the story “Brave Little Monster” to learn about character, setting, and plot. The writing goal in this lesson is for students to discover the basic elements of creative writing.
Students create a short, humorous story by using worksheets to divide a story into four steps that can be illustrated. Students also study the use of onomatopoeia in comedic writing.