March 3, 2013

Outlining: Before or After? - Choice is the answer~

"One method I use to teach organization is outlining the paper after the first draft. I ask students to write an outline of their paper if it is poorly organized and if they don’t see the lack of organization. "

~ Kathleen Sommers - Teaching and Assessing Writing with the Six Traits, Spring 2013

I responded to Kathleen's post:

Your method of outlining after the first draft makes a great deal of sense. My Eureka Moment is that I (as a student) never experienced this approach. Instead I was always required to write the outline before my first draft.  This never worked for me and permanently put me off outlining. Consequently I never really required/or taught outlining as a teacher. I was a bubbling brainstorming kind of writer and that's what I taught (although I told my kids that if they preferred to outline or list go right ahead.)

Your simple and common sense approach honors the writing process and amplifies the traits approach.

I'm amazed that after all these years this method didn't occur to me. I think had too much scar tissue because of the early demands for outlines before I'd properly generated my ideas and drafted a first splash at the topic.

Anyone else have a similar experience?

This post triggered a cascade of agreement from other writing teachers who struggled with outlining. The simple fix of using an outline after the first draft suddenly seemed self-evident.

Kathleen added a great concluding insight to the conversation:

"I do think it depends on the writer. There are many writers that need to start with the outline first. These writers would be very frustrated if told to write and then outline. It appears the more I learn about writing, the more I am aware there are as many ways to approach writing as there are writers."

I came back with an extension of the idea that wrapped up a very solid discussion.

Kathleen, You make a good point about the need for choice.  Offer your students the opportunity to outline before or after the first draft. Let each writer develop their own process.  The writing process shouldn't be a lock step formula, it's more of a path to help us find our words.

This same approach could be used with any graphic organizer: give the writer a choice, before or after. Building in this bit of organization during the drafting stage is what we are all after.  These ideas make the abstract concrete!


1 comment:

Mr. Fachler said...

What a thoughtful post. For many real-world writers, outlining does exist as a sort of organization of collected ideas spilled out on a page.

Also, I appreciate how your conception of "prewriting" includes inquiry activities like researching, interviewing, etc. and should include rich experiences (otherwise, we won't have anything worth writing about).