Introducing Working Outlines

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SWBAT organize the ideas from their bubble maps about how the worlds they come from shape their dreams and aspirations through the use of working outlines.

Big Idea

Help students shape the bundle of ideas in their heads into well-organized essays.

Vocabulary Six Quiz

25 minutes


Today begins with Vocabulary Six Quiz, where my students are tested on the words I selected from

Before the quiz begins, I ask for volunteers to share the experience of using the words in conversations with their parents or other adults, and allow the class to view any recorded conversations that any student may have filmed.  Any student sharing is used as a brief form of review before the test begins.

Writer's Workshop: The Working Outline

20 minutes


After the vocabulary quiz, I instruct my students to take out the bubble maps and the interactive notes that we began in the previous lesson.

I explain to my students that today I am going to make them believers in the power of a working outline (as opposed to the outlines they may have created in the past, the ones that are developed post-essay, in order to fulfill the requirement of an outline that may have been assigned as part of the writing process . . .).

I display the outline I have created for my own essay and walk my students through both what I have included as well as why I have organized my ideas in this fashion.  I then invite them to consult their own bubble maps and develop the outline for their ideas that will guide them through creating the first drafts of their essays.  As they are working, I ask for volunteers to share with the whole class the three elements from their worlds that they will be focusing on, and in what order they intend to discuss them.  I ask them to justify their organization and then ask students to comment on whether or not they believe this is an effective structure.  Through this discussion, the importance of essay structure is elevated and I am able to remind my students that this kind of thought and care about how to organize an essay should happen each time they write, no matter what type of essay they have been assigned.

When my students have had time to develop their outlines, I then show them what the rough draft of my essay is shaping up to look like.  Thus far, they have only seen it in pieces, and while I do not intend to actually complete the sample essay I have been creating, I do believe in providing students with some type of model of what I am asking them to do.  

I explain the roles of the highlighted areas to them: 

  • The areas highlighted in aqua show where I am trying to use figurative language.
  • The areas highlighted in yellow indicate the focus of each of my three body paragraphs, reinforcing the idea of clear essay organization to my students.

ONE FINAL NOTE:  As a former AP Language and Composition teacher, I have a love/hate relationship with the notorious "five-paragraph essay."  While one of my goals as a high school English teacher was to help my students outgrow their reliance on the five-paragraph essay, I do believe in its function as a foundational method for helping students buy into the benefits of clear essay organization.  

I have been careful not to teach this particular assignment as a "five paragraph essay" and have avoided categorizing it as such with my students.  Rather, I have kept the focus on clear organization, and have even given students permission to write more than five paragraphs, so long as their organization remains sound.

Essay Drafting

25 minutes


The remainder of the period is turned over to student essay drafting, working from their freshly created outlines. As students are writing, I am able to circulate the room, reading and commenting on what they are developing.

At the close of the period, I remind students that their completed first drafts are due the following class period, for peer-response workshops.