Pre-Writing Techniques

A lot of students don’t appreciate the importance of pre-writing or brainstorming or warming up to write. Often they want to sit down and start putting pen to paper immediately. However taking a few minutes to think and plan and get your brain working is an important part of writing a good essay. If you know what you are going to say, you can concentrate more on grammar and style while you write. So here are a couple of good exercises to give students in order to help their brain warm up before they get to writing. Some of these techniques are more appropriate for thinking about fiction writing or personal writing and others are better for preparing an academic essay, but generally any kind of pre-writing will be useful.

Topic T-chartT-charts are a common way to start coming up with ideas for an academic paper. They can be used in many different ways but basically, take a piece of paper and draw a giant T on it. Now if your students have to write on a topic like: “Is it better to raise children in the country or the city?”, you can write City and Country on each side of the T chart and list reasons why each place is good in each column. Or if the topic is something like, “Is it important to have lots of friends?”, you can use each column for Yes and No or Pro and Con. If you have to write on a personal topic, you can list things you Like and Dislike or things you do for Fun and things you do for Work/School. The T-chart is very flexible but a little more organized than just writing a list.

Bubble Charts are another way to brainstorm ideas before you write. It’s a bit like an outline but more free form. Write your topic in the middle of the page and circle it. Then write sub-ideas related to the main topic around it, circle them, and draw lines connecting them to the main topic. Now think of smaller subideas related to the first set of subideas. You can keep going in as much detail as you like or need to. And you can also draw connections between different sets of ideas. For example, in the bubble chart in the picture, the topic is computers. Then the sub-ideas are different reasons to use computers: 1) For Fun 2)For Work and 3) For School. Each sub-idea is surrounded by examples. Notice that Email and Research are important to both School and Work.

  • Draw-Label-Caption is a technique that helps get ideas flowing but is also a lesson plan in its own right so it has its own page. Check out the Draw Label Caption lesson plan for details.
  • Free Writing is a fun technique for students to just get their pen moving. Give students a specific amount of time, say 1-5 minutes, and tell them to write anything and everything that comes into their heads. They should not stop writing ever or let the pen even lift off of the page. Tell them not to think about what they are writing or about spelling or grammar. They should just write. This helps kids get over writer’s block or any belief that they can’t write. One variation is to have kids write about a specific topic and get their ideas out.

    After free writing it’s a good idea to have students organize their ideas in someway, by making an outline or a bubble chart.

  • There are a million brainstorming or pre-writing techniques out there if you search on the Internet or look over some textbooks. But these are the techniques that work the best for me.

    Some of these ideas are really well explained at TTMS.org which has a lot of great resources for writers.

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    One Reply to “Pre-Writing Techniques”

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