Outlining For Success

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Students will be able to organize claim, evidence, and details by creating an essay outline.

Big Idea

Mixed paragraphs? Lost details? Confused claims? Outlines help all.

Do Now: Detail Challenge

15 minutes

Today's Do Now builds off our previous writing lesson, Logos-Ethos-Pathos Details. I want students to review the types of details before we begin our next essay so they will be more aware of how they use details, and the format of today's Do Now will also help them brainstorm for their day's essays.

I post a question on the board, taken from this writing prompt. To save time, I only post,  "Should parents have access to student grades online?" I also ask for three details, one each of logos, ethos, and pathos. I want students to have all three so they remember the differences between the types.

Remarkably, no students ask for the definitions of logos, ethos, and pathos. Now that we have covered the terms from both a reading and a writing perspective, they are firmly cemented in students' minds (yahoo!). When I am done with attendance, I create an Excel spreadsheet to list student responses, labeling the top with the question to aid our memory and utilizing three columns for the three types of details.

Students have now had time to list their details, so I call everyone back together and explain that we will pool their details, both for and against the claim, in an Excel file for use later. I want to hear at least one detail from each student to create the largest pool possible (and to allow me to check for understanding).

From there, we hear details; students share, and I record on the Excel file. My initial feel that students are "getting" the detail types proves true--all the details are correctly categorized. I record and offer tips (this could be even more specific; is that the right word?) as we go. When we're done, we have a full pool to use for our essays.

MME Essay Outline

30 minutes

With a list of details already created and waiting for structure, I transition students into our second essay. We review what we remember about quality claims and evidence (opinion, no slanted language) and take a look at the prompt.

Then, magic--the outline: I explain that in our first essays, I noticed students could improve on organization. We need review on breaking separate ideas into separate paragraphs, a skill I know they have practiced before (heads nod, "Oh yeahs" are murmured). I explain that using an outline should help them do this. I pass out the outlines (which look just like the outlines they used sophomore year) and share my favorite approach to using them. I start with my claim then move into my evidence, working to avoid repetition. Then I support using specific details (which, yay, we've already listed). Finally, I tackle the counter-claim (with details) and crusher (or main reason the counter-claim is wrong). Questions? None. We're ready to roll.

The outline has worked its magic well; silence, unbidden, descends on the room as students put paper to pencil. I meander as students work, finding myself stopped to repeat instructions a few times or to help separate ideas other times (are these too similar?). Students are confident in their approach to using the outline itself and mainly need content ideas, for which I am happy to brainstorm with them. They are then able to identify logical evidence and details to support their claims. By the end of the hour, full outlines wait for me in the drop box, a sign of student confidence which makes my teacher heart glow.