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 ...
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.
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.