• Rebecca

Outlines: Essay Writing (part 3)

Updated: Apr 25

The 3rd step in writing an essay is making an outline. Once you have done a "dump page" and organized all the items on the "dump page" on a "lists page," making an outline is very easy. Simply look through the topic headings you've written above each list and see if some of those topics could be grouped together. Those broader groupings become the main points of your outline. The individual list headings will be the subtopics, the A., B., C. of the outline. Then the items in each list become the subpoints, 1., 2., 3.


When I led a class through this exercise using the topic of Q-tips, these were our list headings:

  • Description

  • Hygiene Uses

  • Craft Uses

  • Creative Uses

  • Dangers

  • Where to Buy

  • Where to Store

We noticed that there were three topics about Uses and two topics that started with "Where." Description and Dangers were lists that stood alone without other lists that fit together. These four broad topics became the main points of our outline, with the different list groupings fitting under them as subtopics. So our main-point outline looked like this:

I. Description

II. Uses

A. Hygiene uses

B. Craft uses

C. Creative non-traditional uses

III. Location

A. Where to buy

B. Where to store

IV. Dangers


Notice that we chose to frame the essay with the two topics that didn't have other lists grouped with them. Since the first and the last topics only had one list, we looked through each list to see if the items in the list could be grouped into two or more topics. We saw that the things on our description list fell into two main categories: actual description and metaphoric or "looks like" description. And the things on our dangers list could be divided two different ways. We could either divide it into "Baby" and "Adult" or we could divide it into "Ear" and "Nose." We chose "Ear" and "Nose."


So our final outline looked like this:

I. Description

A. Actual description

B. Metaphoric description

II. Uses

A. Hygiene uses

B. Craft uses

C. Creative non-traditional uses

III. Location

A. Where to buy

B. Where to store

IV. Dangers

A. Dangers to ears

B. Dangers to nose


Making lists and creating an outline from those lists, Steps 2 and 3 of essay writing, do more than just instruct students on how to write an essay. They also coach them in other important skills, such as critical thinking, logic, organization, and scientific classification. These skills will create functioning pathways that will help them in every area of their lives—from housecleaning or assembling something to scheduling their day or discerning what they read, hear, and watch.


Here are the first 3 steps:

1. Make a "Dump Page":

a) Choose a topic, and write it in the center of a blank page.

b) Then write around it everything you can think of about that topic. Dump your brain and ideas onto the page.

2. Make a "Lists Page":

a) Using everything on your "dump page," group like things together in lists.

b) Then title each list.

3. Make an Outline:

a) If any of your list headings go together, group them into broad topics.

b) Make the broad topics your main points (I, II, III, etc.).

c) Make any list headings your subpoints (A, B, C, etc.).

d) If your headings are grouped together, make the items on the list the numbers in your outline (under the A, B, C).


Following this step-by-step approach takes the stress and sweat out of writing. Teaching students to make an outline first gives them a framework for their thoughts. Most students (and most adults!) think making an outline is difficult and daunting. It feels like a hindrance and an unnecessary step to getting the actual writing done. We want to just start writing. But by taking the time to do the first 2 steps, an outline is super easy. After making an outline the next step to writing an essay, the actual writing phase, also becomes rather easy. I will cover that in the next blog on Step 4.

Follow

©2018 by Reservoir of Grace.