Strategy

Essay Outline

Essay Map, Writing Blueprint

UDL 3.1 UDL 6.2

An outline is a tool to help organize thoughts, ideas and information prior to drafting an extended piece of writing. In an outline, students typically include a category name or topic sentence, along with notes about what else will be included in a given paragraph. Outlines can be simple, with one-word headings followed by a list of bullets. Outlines can also be complex, using specific lettering and numbering to organize and prioritize key information. Constructing an outline commonly occurs during the pre-writing phase of writing, following the generation of ideas but prior to drafting. An outline is a powerful tool for early and advanced writers and can be effectively implemented for any genre of writing. Outlining may aid students in overcoming barriers related to writing such as anxiety or organization. For instance, the process of outlining can be helpful in managing and sequencing large amounts of information. Engaging in outlining may also reduce intimidation related to writing and help students more successfully transition from generating ideas to completing a draft.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Graphic Organizer

Five-Paragraph Essay Outline

Graphic organizer to support students in outlining five-paragraph essays on any topic.

Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Writing · 2 pages


Graphic Organizer

Narrative Essay Outline

Graphic organizer to support students in outlining narrative essays.

Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Writing · 2 pages


Graphic Organizer

Informative/Explanatory Essay Outline

Graphic organizer to support students in outlining informative/explanatory essays on any topic.

Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Writing · 2 pages


Graphic Organizer

Argumentative/Persuasive Essay Outline

Graphic organizer to support students in outlining argumentative/persuasive essays on any topic.

Grade 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · English Language Arts, Reading, Writing · 2 pages


Implementation Tips

Move to Independence
Teach outlining early on in the school year, and reinforce it throughout. Outlining is most effective when students internalize how to do it independently.
Editing the Outline
Make sure to check student outlines and provide feedback before having students proceed to drafting. If students experience a smoother and more fruitful drafting experience as a result of using an outline, they will be more invested in the outlining process.
Modeling and Shared Outlines
Use outlining throughout the lesson cycle and throughout the writing process. Model the process of outlining at the front of the lesson. Try facilitating the creation of of an outline collectively as a class. Revise a flawed outline and discuss the potential impact on a draft.
Provide Genre or Assignment-specific Exemplar Outlines
Provide students with templates that are tailored toward specific writing assignments. Provide them with a complete exemplar or model the creation creation of an exemplar.
Using Index Cards
Students can use index cards to outline their writing. Index cards often have a topic or topic sentence. This can help students group the information together and also experiment with the sequencing of different parts of the writing.
Outlines Online
Check out Scholastic's [[http://www.scholastic.com/content/collateral_resources/pdf/c/color_pdfs_3_6_repro1.pdf|student reproducible]].

Examples

Lower Elementary
Prior to drafting short narratives, teachers can work with early writers to plan and sequence two or more events to include in their stories.
Upper Elementary
Students can use outlines to plan a book report. Teachers can help students set up their outlines to include, and group together, the critical parts of a book report such as identifying the theme, describing the plot and including a personal response to the story.
Middle School
Teachers can instruct students how to use outlining to craft a persuasive essay. Students can use an outline to make sure that they state a claim, support their claim with reasons that are organized from multiple texts and well-sequenced, and also include there responses to any counterclaims.
High School
Students can use an outline to plan college admission essays. Whether students are crafting a personal statement or a response to a specific prompt, they will likely be working with very specific constraints such as the number of words or content to include. Using an outline can help students get a bird's-eye view of the content before committing to include each idea in a draft.

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