Students need to write for a wider range of purposes to create short imaginative, informative and persuasive texts. The use of effective strategies to plan ideas for writing will allow students to explore different ideas and sequence their writing.
To plan texts effectively students need to understand that writing is also a tool to explore ideas and not just to record and report. Expose students to a wide variety of planning strategies and teach students how to use each strategy. Generating ideas and learning to plan writing is likely to require a sequence of lessons. To encourage students to see the importance of generating different ideas, separate planning lessons from designated writing lessons for composing, editing and publishing texts.
In order to maximise student engagement and encourage deep understanding, students at this stage should be focused on topics of interest to them. This is not always possible however learning about planning and idea development for writing demands sustained concentration. This will be more achievable if students are motivated by their subject-matter.
Planning strategies to generate and sequence ideas include interactive, verbal, written, independent, whole class and small group or partner activities (discussion, making notes, debating, drawing, interviewing, using diagrams, mind-mapping, planning a sequence of events or information). During planning it is a good idea for students to record key phrases but discourage students from beginning to compose the actual text as it will narrow their focus too early.
Example learning sequence:
- Lesson 1: state the subject matter and facilitate an interactive activity focussed on idea generation followed by short sharp planning sessions such as making notes, drawing, using diagrams or brainstorming (maximum 10 mins).
- Lesson 2: facilitate a second (different) interactive activity focussed on idea generation followed by short sharp planning sessions such as making notes, drawing, using diagrams or brainstorming (maximum 10 mins).
- Lesson 3: facilitate an in-depth planning lesson using a written planning strategy to assist students to identify key ideas and sequence events or information. *Avoid large blank paper - use lists, dot points, stick-notes, strips of paper, folded paper or a graphic organiser (A4), if students have enough space they will often naturally commence writing rather than planning.
- Lesson 4 and 5: students use their planning material to begin text composition, reviewing and publishing.
Activities to support the strategy
Activity 1: brain gangs
This is a whole class brainstorming activity to generate and share ideas in a fast-paced and engaging way.
- Start by establishing the subject matter and identify key ideas within this topic e.g. Measurement: Length, Area, Mass, Volume and Capacity.
- Write the key ideas as headings on large pieces of paper and place them at different stations around the room with writing materials.
- In manageable groups or ‘brain gangs’ students rotate through all the stations and brainstorm their ideas – trying to add as many new ideas to each paper as they can.
- Have a suitable time limit on each rotation such as 3-5mins to keep every student engaged and ensure ideas are always flowing.
- Providing group roles such as ‘managers’, ‘readers’, ‘recorders’, ‘timers’ will assist students to manage the activity.
- When the rotation is complete each brain gang can read out the ideas on the paper at their last station – cross out repetitions and allow time for students to contribute fresh ideas that have occurred to them.
- Display the brainstorm pages.
- Example short sharp planning follow-up (10min): students individually take notes in their workbooks of an idea from each brainstorm that they think is the most important/interesting.
Activity 2: informal class debate
This is a whole class or small group activity to generate ideas and challenge students to think of different ideas quickly.
- Start by establishing the subject matter and identify a key question related to this topic e.g. Measurement/PDHPE: Should 8 year olds have to race 3km for Cross Country?
- Divide the class in half, one half is the affirmative team and one half is the negative team.
- Each team should select a ‘manager’ who will select speakers.
- Starting with the affirmative and then alternating, the ‘manager’ selects one speaker to stand up and put forward an idea to support their argument or rebut the other team’s argument.
- Ideas and arguments should put forward clearly but briefly and the debate should flow back and forth quickly.
- Call the debate to a halt if one side or both begins to run out of ideas and the debate slows down.
- Following the debate ask students to move around (so they are no longer split into their teams) and think/pair/share about the best arguments they heard.
- Example short sharp planning follow-up (10min): students individually draw in their workbooks to illustrate the best affirmative argument and the best negative argument.
ACELY1661: Creating texts: Create short imaginative and informative texts that show emerging use of appropriate text structure, sentence-level grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation and appropriate multimodal elements, for example illustrations and diagrams.
EN1-2A: Outcome 2: plans, composes and reviews a small range of simple texts for a variety of purposes on familiar topics for known readers and viewers (EN1-2A) - Respond to and compose texts: use effective strategies to plan ideas for writing, eg making notes, drawing, using diagrams, planning a sequence of events or information
NSW literacy continuum
WRIC6M6: Aspects of writing, Cluster 6, Marker 6: Writes a sequence of thoughts and ideas.
- Video exploring effective teaching strategies to lay the foundations for developing communication and language through play, storytelling and visual support:
- Writing map of development det.wa.edu.au
- First Steps, Department of Education WA. (2013). Writing Map of Development. Western Australia: Author.
- A simple and fun debating activity that supports students to explore different points of view on a topic and evaluate the best responses/arguments: