Fourth Grade: Teach students to outline before writing.
I know many students do not like outlining. And they are sure it is not needed. Trust me. It is.
I have had students who come back from college and bring me a paper to help them edit. When I mention that it seems a little “rambly,” the student sheepishly tells me that she didn’t have time to outline. And it shows. (She couldn’t have gotten away with that in my cottage classes as we take a grade on the outlining/prewriting step as well as any research steps that are needed for report writing!)
Outlining keeps a writer from rambling. It helps him get thoughts on paper in shortened form—while the ideas are flowing. He doesn’t have to interrupt the creative process with writing out full sentences or paragraphs. He can jot down notes quickly—thus, keeping up a little better with the mind than writing full sentences usually allows.
Outlining is the thinking/creating step. Writing is the style step. By learning to outline first, the student’s focus is on gathering data and organizing it in the order he wants it. He doesn’t have to do so many skills at one time—research (or think in creative situations), write notes, determine order/placement of material, write quality sentences, divide paragraphs, edit, etc.
There are myriad of outlining types to use with the fourth grade student. There is the Sentence-by-Sentence approach (what some materials call the Key Word Outline) over source material. There is the aforementioned Q & A outline (see Third Grade). There are templates to “fill in the blank.” There is, of course, formal outlining (which I like to teach gradually by using outlining cards with the eventual numerals and letters already written on the cards).
For young students, a fill in the blank outline might work at first. For story writing, I like to use a Directed Brainstorming outlining box in which each quad has the elements that the student needs to include in his story: character/setting, goals, obstacles, and resolution. There are outlining methods for each type of writing—and each outline is a stepping stone to a fourth grade student becoming an outstanding writer.
Note: Go to our store to see (and print/use) two week samples of my Meaningful Composition series. These samples have, for the most part, complete writing projects. Thus, you can try out many of the outlining methods that I have been describing in this series. Also, keep your eyes on my stores (Teachers Pay Teachers, CurrClick, Teacher’s Notebook, and the Character Ink Store) as I put up various writing project downloads that are in my longer books.