Organizing Thoughts in Writing: the Idea Wheel

Students of all ages struggle with getting thoughts on to “the paper”. I have found that organizing thoughts are a critical and necessary step to help writers in the head-to-hand process of communication. There are many ways to organize thoughts, anywhere from making a list; to writing uninterrupted for 3-5 minutes ; to worksheets that help corral ideas into a logical process. I have a few graphic organizer worksheets that I found on the internet that will be useful in assisting your writer.  As I show you the various types of graphic organizers I will give you instructions on how to use them so you have success in teaching. This week I am going to discuss the Idea Wheel.

The Idea Wheel can be used when you are trying to generate ideas for topics in which to write. This can be particularly useful for when you have a student that says they have nothing to write. The idea here is to give the student four broad categories at the beginning and then narrow it down to where they can write about one of them. As you can see from the photo, Malcolm has written several ideas for each section.

After we looked at each of these categories he decided he had enough to write more about a subject that he knows quite well, coffee. This is important for your student to feel confident they have enough to say about the topic they have chosen. If they do not, stop there for the day and come back to it the next day.

Below is a picture of the next step in this process. I gave Malcolm another idea wheel so he could write details about coffee, one of the topics he listed in his idea wheel. Your writer may need guidance and some ideas to help with the various categories. The upper left-hand quarter of the circle is Brewing Methods, the upper right-hand quarter of the circle is Types of Roasts, the bottom right-hand quarter section is Places to Drink Coffee.

This may take time so do not let the process become laborious. Set the timer for 5 minutes and let your writer know this so it keeps things moving along. You can adjust the time accordingly as you will have some students who need 1 or 2 more minutes.

If you have a beginning writer, do not have them write more than one or two ideas in each section. Adjust the time spent in writing ideas to 3 minutes instead of 5 minutes if necessary. Remember, the principle behind this is to help them see they have something about which to write.

Writing requires thought and may not come as easily as some other subjects. Be sure to remind your writer to: 1) write about something that interests them and 2) pick a topic for which they have a knowledge base. This makes the process of writing less difficult and promotes success.  I would advise you to sit down and go through the process with your student(s). You get an idea of how your writer feels and they can see that you have an interest in this too.  Have everyone share what was written after the activity has been completed.

The first few times you do this may be difficult, but continue because it will help your writer focus on what to write.  Just like anything new you try, it is feels awkward, but it will pay off and I think it will cause your writer(s) to create better papers.

Now that this process is completed the actual writing of the paper can begin. If your writer gets stuck, refer back to the wheel for ideas. Not every idea needs to be written about if your student is doing well.

An author always likes to have an audience! Share the stories at dinner or call Grandma to have your author read their story to an interested and doting family member.  If there is any interest, send me your author’s story and I will  post it. If you have a student who loves to draw, have them add pictures to their story. I am sure this will be a keepsake and you can use this as an example of writing for a portfolio review.

If you have a senior high student you can use the wheel without the cute pictures in the upper right hand corner.  If you think the wheel will be met with resistance, divide a paper into four sections. Guess what? I actually use this type of organizer sometimes when I am trying to generate blog topics. I like to see different ways to organize as there is something about doing things the same way all the time that gets to be mundane for me so I like to mix things up a bit. I even like the wheel with the pictures, but I am an elementary teacher by trade and at heart. :)

Okay, are you ready? Get set, write! If you have questions or comments please let me know.

Next topic of organizing writing: Venn diagrams for Comparison/Contrast Papers

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