Jill’s Gems: Key Word Outline Worries

Aug 29, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Now that it’s back-to-school time, many parents and teachers will be introducing Unit 1 to their students: Note Making and Outlines. This unit along with Unit 2 lays the foundation for the entire Structure and Style™ program. In Unit 1 students select and note down key words from a source document into an outline. Following that, they “test” their outline by retelling the basic ideas out loud to their parent or teacher. Sometimes, though, a student struggles with this process. Jill Pike shares her experience about how to handle those situations in this post.

It is very common for a child to struggle to recall the ideas from the key word outline he previously generated. The best way to overcome it is to be sure to thoroughly discuss the source text as you read it. Andrew does that when he reads “Sea Snakes” in the Student Writing Intensive Level A* course. In the video he often stops to discuss what is going on, talks about what the words mean, and provides other helpful background information.

Remember, your kids don’t have the experience that you have. For example, if you are reading a source on Peter the Great, you are able to place him in history. You can picture what an old Russian looked like and how Peter was different. You know where Russia is, what it is like, and have some experience with the cities that are mentioned. Your child has none of that. You might as well be talking about Kidrons from Platitudinous.

So what should you do? Re-read the source and discuss it! And then after discussing it, give the key word outline another try at retelling. Remember, you cannot help your kids too much. They often need tons of help and sometimes for a very long time. (I had to explain texts in detail for years with my dyslexic daughter). But I promise that over time they will eventually push you away and say, “I can do it myself!”

If you are encountering similar experiences with your student(s), take a deep breath, back up, and go at it again, this time providing more background information and explanation. Define unusual vocabulary, and take the time to share your knowledge with your student. Over time he will begin to intuit the process, but you will need to give him all the time he needs.


*The Student Writing Intensive series was discontinued in November 2019 and replaced by the new Structure and Style for Students program.

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