Writing Organization Lessons
By using writing organization worksheets and activities students can learn to put their thoughts on paper in an orderly manner.
By Dawn Dodson
At this point in the school year, my students are improving their writing fluency. Free writing time is increasing, and students are creating responses to literature, and keep a personal journal. In looking through students' writing, one thing becomes clear - they need to organize their thoughts! Although the ideas are flowing, it is now time to focus our thoughts, and put them in order. In order to accomplish this goal, I rely on graphic organizers, as well as Ruth Culham's trait-based strategies from the book "The Six Traits of Writing". I find that the activities and examples allow my students to see concrete evidence of "good writing", and give them the opportunity to hone specific skills. The following are some tools and activities I incorporate into instruction in order to help students better organize and focus their writing.
An instructional tool I depend upon is the graphic organizer. The goal of the graphic organizer is to allow students to brainstorm ideas, plot out the sequence of the writing, and narrow the topic of the chosen piece of writing. I use a variety of organizers, and often encourage students to use the format that helps them best sort out and focus their ideas. Some students are successful with web formats, while other students choose flow charts, columned charts, or outline style organizers. There is a variety of graphic organizing resources available, and I have collected many over the years. An online resource I have found useful is Education Place. This website displays a variety of graphic organizers for different learning purposes. I used to make all students use the same format; however, given the fact that students have different learning styles and needs, I encourage students to use the organizer that works best for them.
In addition to providing organizing tools for students, I refer to Culham's book "The Six Traits of Writing". Culham's book includes student examples of writing. There also is a common writing language that can be established through the instructional and assessment techniques incorporated into each trait as well. The content and organization assessments and activities allow me to provide specific instruction to help improve student writing. The 6+1 Traits of Writing website can be a useful resource in discovering specific activities and assessments to include in writing instruction. Students are given the opportunity to evaluate writing and participate in activities that focus on one specific skill at a time. Not only are students able to more effectively focus and organize their writing, but I also benefit from focusing my instruction on one skill at a time.
Although using graphic organizers and skill activities have been effective ways for my students to organize and focus their writing, I still like to find writing projects that provide meaningful content in order for students to apply their learning. Many of the extended writing assignments are connected to literature or students' own personal experiences and interests. In my own classroom I have found that narrative style writing is a great place to begin to allow students to connect learned writing skills with meaningful content. The following are excellent examples of narrative style organizers that allow students to apply their writing skills in meaningful ways.
Writing Organization Lessons:
Unforgettable: Students write an article about their most memorable experience. After reading an article about sky diving, students conduct interviews and research in order to write an informative article about their experience and information related to the topic. This lesson does a great job combining personal student interest and research writing components.
The Bing, the Bang, and the Bongo-The Five Paragraph Essay: A PowerPoint presentation introduces students to writing an effective, organized five part essay. Students use an organized template to plan out an essay, and the lesson ends with students creating their own essay.
Creating a Life Map: Students learn how to organize and place information in sequential order by creating a Life Map. In addition to the Life Map, students also write a personal narrative that describes the most important events that have taken place in their lives. This lesson requires students to organize and focus their writing on specific topics using narrative writing, while at the same time tapping into student-centered, meaningful content.
"I" Witness to History: After reading an article about Pearl Harbor, students create their own diary from the perspective of a witness to a chosen historical event. The diary is composed of two to four entries that reflect the point of view of the person involved, facts of the event, focused narration, and a description of the witness's feelings.