6 Steps to Successful Planning

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Now what? You’ve generated ideas and you’re ready to write. Organization is the key, it’s time to plan! Within this post, I will explain how to successfully teach organization to ensure engagement and put the enjoyment back into writing!

Step 1: Attitude

Attitude is everything!  Create a positive environment that cultivates the love of writing. Have you told yourself that you hate to write?  Perhaps mentioned to others that you are a terrible writer or *gasp* writing is boring?!  Stop now!  Change your attitude! It’s time to get real with yourself and others.  You can write! Everyone is capable of unique and creative writing. Now, embrace the process.

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Excitement is contagious, I am mindful of my energy whenever I teach a writing lesson. As positivity starts to flow, the ideas and creativity build.  Was I always like this, is this a natural gift just for positive minded people?  No, I, like many others had to cultivate and grow a confident quality.  Now, this upbeat method I have for writing is contagious.  Start by believing in yourself and your young learners. Get ready to unleash the creativity not only in your child’s mind but yours as well.  The power of positivity is infectious, and partnered with creativity is unstoppable!

Step 2: Model

Model the work you want from your students.  Get out a large tablet, a writing journal or a white board (I prefer large paper so I can revisit my work later). Get ready to practice the art of writing directly in front of your learners.  Seeing you embrace the process of writing will give them the notion that they too are ready to try.  Your work doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact the more you draft in the moment, the more kids will see how writing is a process. From cultivating ideas, organizing my thoughts, formulating sentences to editing my work, every step of the writing process is modeled in front of my kids. Seeing you write is just as important as seeing you read.  Modeling any behavior is a gift for learners as they emulate your actions.

Step 3 Primary Age

For kids age 5-7, I organize with a primary journal. In a this journal, the top is an open block for pictures while the lower half has large primary lines perfect for the beginning writer.  If you don’t have a primary journal, no problem, just draw a horizontal line on the middle of the page. Next, I have them place the acronym DTAP on the top left of their page. Starting off with DTAP (Date, Topic, Audience and Purpose) gives the writer a direction and reason for writing.

DTAP:

  • D: Date
  • T: Topic
  • A:Audience
  • P:Purpose

Pick a topic.  As you model, choose from the list of ideas created or, if you are feeling confident, choose the first idea that comes to mind. Now, don’t cheat, no planning ahead, do all of your modeling right in front of your learners. Choose an idea on the spot and go for it.  Talk out loud through each step as you begin to formulate your ideas.  Draw 3-5 pictures or use words on the top part of the page.  Don’t write on the bottom half yet, save this for the next lesson, when you write your story.  Talk through each illustration as you go. After drawing some quick pictures label them 1st, 2nd, 3rd. Each number will correspond for a sentence you will write. Here is an example.

That’s it, you have just demonstrated the art of expository organization for primary kids. Now, they are ready to write.  Guide them through their journal, give them praise and confidence as they begin their writing journey.

Step 4 Procedural/ Expository Writing 

Ages 7 and up will enjoy the spaghetti and meatball, stoplight or color coded plan. The name of the plan changes for different themes I write. For instance, with my travel writing, I used airplanes and suitcases to prompt and engage learners.  But, for now I will stick with spaghetti and meatballs to explain the process.  “The topic sentence at the top is the plate (green). The noodles (yellow) the reason, details or facts. Meatballs (red) are to explain or give examples of each detail.(Auman, 2003)” Typically I ask my student not to stress over the outline. In fact model quickly to get your ideas down on paper. Otherwise when too many details are added, it’s a challenge to rewrite. Get the gist or essence of the topic for your procedural writing project. Even spelling is not something I worry about at this time.  I am more concerned with gathering and sharing their ideas in this step.

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To begin this model, start with DTAP on the top left corner of the page (Date, Topic, Audience and Purpose). This gives you a clear goal for writing. Now demonstrate, choosing a topic.  Again this is best done right in front of your students.  Show them how to draft their organization.  Start with your topic sentence then add at least three ideas. Follow with two-three examples under each main thought. Finish with a concluding sentence that revisits your topic.  The writing demonstration should take no longer then 5-10 mins as you talk it through. In some cases, it could take even less time once your students get the idea of planning.  Here is an example of spaghetti and meatball planning.

That’s it, folks!  Now, that your kids have seen you plan, let them explore the process.  Perhaps give them a time limit to draft a procedural plan.  For added motivation, let them choose their own topic.  Remember you are trying to encourage them to write. There is plenty of time to teach children to write on topic when they become confident. But, for now get them to love the process of writing.

Step 5 Narrative Writing

The art of storytelling is captured within this plan. Building ideas with a flow chart allows students to grasp the rhythm and pattern of a traditional story. Start by building the scene with setting and characters.  Then map out the story with a first event, followed by a problem.  Identify the second event and explain the solution.  Conclude the story by sharing a feeling or remembering a character.  Yes, this plan can be a longer and more in depth but it will help frame a narrative story.  Drafting a story is best, used with a prompt to organize their work.  Here are a couple examples available on my Etsy site.

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Again, in the top left corner I place DTAP (Date, Title, Audience and Purpose) to focus your writing. Choosing a topic is again done right in front of my learners.  As I begin to plan out my story, I think out loud, demonstrating how ideas can be quickly gleaned. The entire prompt is completed before they start their own adventure.  Doing so allows them to see how I have also completed the task I am requesting from them.

Step 6 Meaningful Sentences and Transition Words

Developing a clear topic and concluding sentence is of the utmost importance. During my next writing blog I will clearly identify different styles of topic and concluding sentence.  For now, have your child identify the main point of their writing (topic sentence) and wrap it up with a concise sentence that restates the topic (concluding sentence).  Also consider placing transitional words in the plan to help their paper flow. As they start to write, this will blend the sentences together. Transitional words are traditionally different from procedural to narrative as I will cover more in the next blog.  For now, try  using these words for procedural and narrative writing:

Procedural

  • First
  • Next
  • And Then
  • Finally

Narrative

  • At First
  • Suddenly
  • Soon
  • A Short Time Later
  • Afterward

There are many other methods and unique elements to to add in your writing repertoire.  These are just a few ideas to get you started writing.  Once you and get your student excited and eager to write, introducing a variety of different planning methods becomes an inventive game. Stay mindful! Remember to motivate your students with positivity and excitement. Cultivate writing as fun and creative. Give one of my methods a try and see what spark of excitement you ignite in your blooming writers. Consider sharing some of your work, I would sure love to see it!

Works Sited:

*Auman, Maureen E. 2003. Step-Up to Writing. Longmont, Colorado. Sopris West.

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