Learning How To Create An Outline

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SWBAT learn the format of a formal outline by organizing information and research sources.

Big Idea

The treacherous outline! It makes writing a draft so much easier.

Reading Time

10 minutes

Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time.  This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.

Direct Instruction: Learning The How and Why Of An Outline

20 minutes

Many students struggle with organizing their thinking. They jump around a lot and there is no clear development of ideas. While I think using too many outlines can stifle creativity and forces students into a box, an outline is incredibly important when writing a research paper due to the length of the paper and the fact that students are not used to this type of writing. Today's lesson focuses on having students learning the basics of creating a formal outline.

I start the lesson by pulling up the Research Booklet on the Smartboard. Students can also access the booklet from my web-site and here is a screen shot: Research Page Screenshot. They can follow along as I explain to them this important lesson. The booklet, although lengthy, becomes an instruction manual for the entire research paper and explains each step. My role is to take students through this so they can understand the expectations. We focus today on Phase 3: Outline, Works, Cited, and Chronology, which is on page seven of the booklet. The lesson is really direct instruction. I explain to them what is in the packet so they can see how to create a formal outline.

Students listen as I explain each step of how to create this outline. I review with them the numbering system they will need to use. The numbering system is from the Harvard Outline and looks like this: Formal Outline Numbering System. Students follow along as I explain each step from organizing notecards, creating headings, and eventually creating the outline. The numbering system is always the toughest part of the outline as it can be detailed, so I make sure students know what it looks like.

This video explains the process I take in class: Outline Explanation

After I explain what they need to do, students are then shown models of two different outlines from previous students. The two examples are Julia Child Outline and Jacob Grimm Outline. Showing them models helps them to see this complicated numbering system in context and makes the process less daunting.

Notecard Organization

13 minutes

With time permitting, students are able to work on the first step of this phase, which is to organize their note cards. They have already created 50 note cards from seven different sources and the challenge for them is to order these note cards in way that will help them create a clear outline. To overcome this challenge I give students this time to work through their thinking independent of teacher guidance so they can so what works and what they will need to fix.

I tell students to clear their desks and spend this time organizing their note cards into piles of like information. Since most of this paper will be told in chronological order they create piles based on their person's life. These piles will help them to create an outline and work on headings within their outline.

Here is an example of a student's pile: Note card Piles

This video discuss the piles of a student's work on Elizabeth Taylor: Note card Pile Example

There really is no right amount of piles to create or certain topics that each student must have because each student is researching a different topic. Sometimes students have issues creating enough piles so I try and give them some numbers to make it easier. I tell students who struggle with this that piles should really have no less than 4 or 5 cards and no more than 10. That gives them a clear amount and then helps them to create the piles.

This part of the lesson shows students how independent this work is. I try and avoid telling them what piles that they have to have but instead encourage them to think about what piles will help them create an outline. This allows them to also the connections between different stages of the research process.