Make a Plan? Teach Student Writers to Think in Parts

When I was a little girl, my dad let me help him plan our route for family road trips. I slid the heavy map out from under the couch and Dad wiped the dust from the cover of it. Lying side by side on our bellies, we opened the map to Indiana. I  put my finger on our town. Dad opened his pocket notebook and we began planning our route, step by step.

Today I don’t plan the route for road trips. I just open my map app, type the name of the place I’m going (I don’t even need an address) and push “Go.” The route choices appear and I tap the one that will take the least time.
It reminds me of the way students “plan” their writing — whatever is going to take the least amount of time.
Lots of students don’t need a plan in order to write a draft. In fact, sometimes a plan hinders the draft. I watch others make “plans” after they write the draft, and then pass the plan off as “prewriting” to their teachers. All of this makes me question the planning phase of the writing process.
There is no doubt, planning is essential to writing well. The question becomes —
What kinds of planning strategies help students write well? I think the key is this…
Writers think in parts.
Tweet: Writers think in parts. Find out how to help students plan their writing, and get 5 FREE storyboard templates.

Narrative writers think in scenes. Non-narrative writers think in subtopics. Poets think in lines and stanzas. The most effective planning strategies scaffold students to think in parts.
Here are two lessons to help students think in parts.
  1. Storyboards (4:34 introduction to storyboards)
  2. Oral Storytelling (video lesson)

(Don’t forget to check out the resources for each of the lessons. The link is in the description of each video.)
The storyboards lesson is designed for older students and the oral storytelling lesson for younger students. However, both can be adapted to all experience levels.
If you’re looking for a techy option for planning, I’ve had lots of success with Google Slides. The slides automatically set students up to think in parts. Each slide is a different part.
The important part of planning is students take a little time to think through the parts of their writing. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to be lengthy.
It does need to be thought through!

Add a comment to join the conversation and let me know how you help students plan in parts. I’d also love to hear how you use the storyboard templates.

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