The prewriting stage is a critical part of the writing process. It is also one of the hardest parts to manage, especially for middle schoolers or for those high schoolers who struggle with organization in writing tasks. Much of our work at JBH Tutoring is introducing studentsto the best strategiesfor them that will help move them from prewriting to drafting. Here are some prewriting strategies we use with students:
Identifying the key words from the prompt. We first ask students to read the prompt carefully (aloud or silently). Next, we ask them to circle or highlight the prompt’s key words.
Formulating their key words in answer to the prompt. After that, we ask students to generate their own key words that answer the prompt. We remind them that they will need to repeat these key words in answer to the prompt in every paragraph.
Scribing for the student. Many of our students are comfortable providing their ideas orally before putting fingers to keyboard. We let them talk and we type what they say, verbatim. Afterwards they can refer to these scribed notes as they move to the drafting stage.
Providing graphic organizers to collect and analyze evidence. Sometimes they look like two-column notes. At other times they look like a spreadsheet, an outline or even more like a simple drawing of a spider. We always ask our students what they think would be the best way to organize their ideas; there is no best graphic organizer that works for all students.
Breaking down a prompt with multiple questions. As students move into their final years in high school, they are often presented with a prompt consisting of multiple questions. To help them organize and answer these more complex prompts, we create a new document with the prompt and separate the questions from one another, leaving white space for students to answer each question individually. This simple visual intervention allows students to answer each question comprehensively and also provides a nifty way for them to organize their draft, question by question.