How to Help the Unorganized Writer - Learning Lab

How to Help the Unorganized Writer

19 JANUARY 2016 | BLAIR POWERS 


We often hear teachers and parents asking about students who can clearly express their thoughts in words, but have a difficulty translating them to the written word. These students can verbally answer a question, but when they write their thoughts down, it is not cohesive, and the point is lost in the rambling. Where is the “disconnect?”

In general, this type of student has good ideas, but they are just unorganized. When having a conversation, ideas can flow a little better than when they need to be put on paper. Going immediately from talking about something to a blank page can be a huge mistake for most writers. Even very skilled writers generally don’t skip the planning and organizing stages; they may just do it in their head. Most students need a more concrete or visual plan before writing. While most students are taught this when they learn the writing process, it often just seems like an extra step to create more work. However, the planning and organizing stages can make the writing and editing go significantly faster. The POWER acronym for writing is an effective one to use with students.

P – plan

O – organize

W – write

E – edit

R – revise

The type of student we are talking about is one who goes straight from planning to writing. Organizing is an essential step and can happen in many ways. Here are some ideas:

  1. Sticky Notes – write important ideas or details on sticky notes and arrange them to create a natural flow from point to point.
  2. Outline – a simple numbered or lettered outline is a good strategy to collect ideas that are related, which makes it easier to move forward into building paragraphs.
  3. Graphic Organizers – search “writing graphic organizers,” and you will find tons of examples like planning webs and templates that cater to any type of writing.

Formal writing continues to be an important skill, especially since more correspondence occurs through email and many students engage in so much informal writing through social media and texting. Encourage students to spend more time planning and organizing on the front end, which should help “writer’s block,” as well as papers that meander to their point.

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“Power.” The Learning Toolbox. James Madison University, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015. <www.coe.jmu.edu/learningtoolbox/power.html>.