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Prewriting: Ordering Your Ideas (Lesson Plan)

Persona Paper 07.07.2015

Prewriting: Ordering Your Ideas

Once you have determined your writing topic, purpose, and audience, you need to organize your thoughts.

Logical Order

When you write about information that fits into categories, you will use logical order. For example, an informative paragraph about sea otters might group together details about where they live, and then explain what they eat, and finally tell how they act. When you compare and contrast, it is logical to group related items together.

“It is easy to confuse frogs with toads. After all, they have a similar body shape and are the same size, and both are amphibious. There are some observable differences, though; that can help you tell them apart. The first is their skin texture. Frogs have smooth skin while toads’ skin is bumpier. Their body shapes are slightly different, too. Frogs look leaner and sleeker than toads. Finally, they move differently. Most frogs can leap long distances while toads will only take small hops.”

~This was used with permission of the author, T. Etheridge

Arranging Details by Using Logical Order

Think about two subjects that are alike enough to be compared yet different enough to be interesting. Write down three ways that these subjects are alike and three ways that they are different. You might compare and contrast the following:

  • Being a child and being a teenager
  • Live action movies and animated movies
  • Living in a large city and living in a small community

Identify Your Main Ideas

As a first step in ordering your thoughts, figure out the main ideas. You may only have one primary purpose, or you may have several. Remember your purpose in writing. What ideas will you need to include to help you meet your goals?

Journal Writing

Select a piece of writing that you have already written. Read the article to identify one or more main ideas. Underline each main idea you find.

The best order when telling of an experience is chronological order. Tell the events in the order that they happened—first, second, third, and so on. Chronological order helps the reader follow the story.

Writing Task

Write a letter about an eyewitness account. Remember that letters have a salutation, attention-getting hook, and the statement of the event. The body should include all of the facts and details. Your conclusion should include your feelings or questions about what you observed, the importance of the event, and the letter closing.

Find an Order That Works

Each main idea needs details such as examples, facts or reasons to support it. Brainstorm or use notes to make a list of details about an event. Once you have all of the details, you can put them in order. The order will depend on your purpose.

  • To persuade your reader, you might list details in the order of their importance. List the most important detail either first or last, depending on which order that you think is most convincing.
  • To describe something, you might list the details in the order in which an observer would notice them, or you can begin with the most significant detail.
  • To explain something, you might word from the simplest details to the most difficult one or from the first step to the last.

Make a Plan for Writing

Look at and think about any topics in which you are interested. Write down notes on your project. No matter what kind of writing you do, or who your audience is, you can still follow these steps:

  • Identify your main ideas.
  • List your main ideas and details.
  • Arrange them in an order that suits your purpose.

Cross-Curricular: Science

Think about a science topic that you are particularly interested in or studied recently. List the main idea and the necessary supporting details. Then, order these ideas and details and write three paragraphs on the subject.

When evaluating your writing or a classmate’s writing yourself these questions, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it identify the main idea?
  • Does it list the main idea and supporting details in a sensible order?

In the cross-curricular activity, the topic should be a science topic. The supporting details should be clearly related.

Drafting: Getting It Done

Have your ever watched or been in a dress rehearsal? Write about what you might learn in a dress rehearsal.

You are ready to write a first draft of your essay, story, or report. How should you begin?

By drafting, you turn your lists, clusters, and other prewriting work into sentences and paragraphs.

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last line, my last paragraph, and my last page first.” ~Katherine Anne Porter.

As a writer, what do you think of this approach?

Try Different Ways

Sometimes, stories and reports seem easy to write. Other times your first page stays blank no matter how long you look at it. You may already have a way to begin drafting. If you don’t or you would like to try another way, you might experiment with one of the following suggestions:

  • Pretend you are writing to a friend. Write as if you are talking about your idea with a friend who always listens and understands.
  • Start on the easiest part. You do not have to start at the beginning. Begin by writing the most accessible sections. Then, the other parts will probably seem easier to write.
  • Record yourself speaking the parts. Say what you are thinking, and you will have an instant first draft.
  • Set reasonable goals. The thought of writing an entire essay, report, or story can be very scary. Decide if you are going to write just one paragraph at a time.

I write for one hour at a time, then I take a short break. I set a kitchen timer to keep me focused.

Journal Writing

Think about the techniques listed in this article or about techniques that you have developed yourself. Explain how these suggestions might help you with your drafting.

Writing Tip

You need to use what you know about your writing style and what you have learned about the writing process to decide which drafting techniques would be most helpful. What types of writing give you the most trouble? What kinds of writing come easily to you? Do you worry so much about getting things perfect that you never finish anything? I can relate to that one.

Write On

Once you have begun writing, the challenge is to continue writing. Keep your prewriting notes handy. Look back at them whenever you reach a stopping point in your writing.

Completing your first draft is more important than perfecting every sentence. Later you can rearrange your sentences or improve the way something starts. You can also check grammar, spelling, and punctuation at a later date.

Some writers like to draft on a computer. I like to write by hand then type into a computer. Do whatever works best for you. If you find yourself stuck, however, consider these suggestions:

  • Get a snack
  • Review your prewriting
  • Getaway
  • Discuss your writing

This lesson plan and its contents are the property of Melissa Reese Etheridge. You are welcome to use it with your students and to share with your fellow teachers. Please do not repost and claim as your own or try to sell online as your own.

Image Credit » This image belongs to Melissa Reese Etheridge.

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MegL wrote on July 7, 2015, 5:20 PM

Wish these kinds of lessons had been available when I was in school. We mostly wrote essays and I always chose fiction so I had no idea about compare and contrast, etc, or about picking out key points.

Paulie wrote on July 7, 2015, 10:34 PM

Thanks for sharing a great lesson plan about writing. I think this article is something that would really go over good on Hubpages, the other site where I write. I am sharing this with my Facebook followers.

DWDavisRSL wrote on July 7, 2015, 10:39 PM

This is an excellent lesson plan. If I was still teaching Language Arts next year I would definitely borrow it.

CoralLevang wrote on July 7, 2015, 11:37 PM

EXCELLENT! I love this. Thank you. This is helpful even as we write here or challenge ourselves as writers.

AliCanary wrote on July 15, 2015, 8:16 PM

Wow, very thorough! This should be very helpful. I think Wikipedia does a good job of following a format that flows logically, so that can be used as a good example. I also advise people who are having a hard time getting started to start anywhere; they can always add a beginning later!

missfortune wrote on January 19, 2016, 10:17 AM

These are some great ideas and concepts; I am going to forward the URL to a couple of friends that I know are going to benefit from this.