Friday, December 4, 2015

Merge Magic: Outline into Essay

The Problem
Students skip the outlining step in written tasks because they see outlining as redundant. ("Why outline when I can just write?")

The Result
The essay is unorganized.
The essay takes longer because students are trying to organize while writing.
Missed opportunities: Students don't see gaps in their arguments ahead of time and realize, too late, that they don't have enough information.

The Solution
Make the outline meaningful: make it match the structure of the essay and make it copy-paste-able 

Set up the outline to mirror the structure of effective paragraphs.

Two structures our teachers use...
S.E.E.C - State, Explain, Example, Connect (sample)
M.E.A.L - Main Idea, Evidence, Analysis, Link (sample)

Use a table in google docs to complete the outline

When the table is complete, MERGE the cells to create a paragraph. (BAM! Essay is nearing completion without having to look at a blank page!)

Here's part of the outline filled in (from grade 8 Science)

Now we MERGE some cells so we can view the information as a paragraph. (Highlight cells to merge > choose Table > merge cells > copy/paste into essay document)
Merged text looks like a paragraph! 
One step further...grab the source number and put it with the example. This makes in-text citations easier to do later on.
When kids first see this, it's like a load off of their minds. They see the value of the organizing ahead of time and see how they can use it directly in the essay.

As always, thoughts welcome!