Jill’s Gems: Graphic Organizers or Key Word Outlines?

Jul 17, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Not long ago in the forum, we had a member ask about using a graphic organizer in place of a key word outline. Jill Pike, IEW Accomplished Instructor and author, responded with her characteristic clarity and encouragement. Read Jill’s comments, and see how IEW’s key word outline helps students organize their thoughts and empower their writing.

The point of a graphic organizer is to help students organize their thoughts. They might be helpful to generate topics, but they are not a replacement for a key word outline (KWO).

What is a graphic organizer? It is a page that is supposed to help students brainstorm ideas for inventive writing (Unit 7 in the IEW system). Graphic organizers often include bubbles and charts. They are sometimes called sequence ladders or spider maps. Others involve Venn diagrams.

If your student finds them useful to help them come up with topics, by all means use them. Better, learn the classical skills of invention: division (seeing into things), comparison (what are like/unlike things?), application (to whom or what does this have application and value), and significance (causes, effects, consequences). Andrew explores these skills in the new High School Essay Intensive.

However, finding topics is only the beginning of inventive writing. Once the topics are determined, using whatever method works for you, always move on to create a key word outline to organize the details of the essay.

Writing is just plain hard thinking work. A graphic organizer will not be a magic wand to help a student with inventive writing. Modeling is much more effective. Work with your student to discuss possible topics, and show them how to use the skills of invention to find them. Once topics are determined, work through the process of coming up with details for the topic and how to organize the details into a paragraph using a key word outline. The TRIAC model (taught in the new TWSS and the new HSE) is a fantastic tool for this. For thirty other ways of organizing a paragraph, check out Pellegrino’s A Writer’s Guide to Writing Powerful Paragraphs.

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