Using a Seven Sentence Outline to Begin Drafting

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SWBAT complete an outline for the first draft of the Argument of Fact.

Big Idea

... outlining is a tried and true pre-writing strategy ...

Context and Introduction

8 minutes

At this point in this writing project, students have identified a topic, stemming from their "expertise book," developed and modified a research question, located and evaluated and read sources, and composed a thesis.  Now it is time to start drafting.

Before getting too deep into the actually writing of the essay, I have students complete my "Seven Sentence Outline," which I have used in some capacity for over 20 years.  It's simple, and it's complete as an outline ...

In the following section I explain the features of the outline, and I explain how I guide students to begin outlining ...


Explaining the Outline

19 minutes

The attached outline copy in .pdf assumes that your students will write a "traditional" five paragraph essay.  Of course, as students outgrow this model, all one need do is add sentences -- an eight sentence outline is for a six paragraph essay and so on.

I've provided a marked-up .pdf copy as well, and on this copy I include a few notes about some of the required sentences.  In a nutshell, though, I will point out I want an outline that previews the conclusion (aka. the "new idea") and provides for a straightforward, workable opening -- that is an opening that is "teachable."  As I mention in my comments on the  marked-up .pdf, I think one of the, as Gerald Graff puts it, best "academic moves" we can teach students is to open essays with a quotation.  

An opening quotation grounds and focuses the writing, and I have found it limits the impossibly broad opening sentences that plague many student essays.  (Quick digression: my all time fav. of these hopeless sentences is -- from a kid writing about To Kill a Mockingbird -- "In the world today, we see much racism.")

Moreover, asking students to identify the "new idea" (explained on the outline and in the outline notes), also forces some clearheaded thinking, and, I think, produces stronger arguments.  Asking students to articulate -- even BEFORE the first draft -- WHAT is the POINT of an essay is a powerful bit of critical thinking.

Using the Outline

19 minutes

Once students are ready to begin outlining, I project this Google Doc and clarify the embedded instructions.  Also, I push out a copy to students who load, "make a copy," name, and use.

Once every student has loaded his/her own copy, I ask them to begin typing!  I circulate and help as need be ...

Generally, I will give one or two nights to finish this for homework.