Graphic Organizers For Descriptive Essays

 

There’s something about the word “essay” that instantly turns the smiles of middle school students into expressions of dread. Of course, we can’t avoid it when the time comes for teaching the essay. But there are some strategies we can use to show our students it’s not as difficult or taxing as they might think. Reluctant writers can gain confidence and produce successful writing in a supportive environment with lots of scaffolds and modeling. Here are 10 ways to make essay writing less stressful and more successful for your students:

  1. Keep it Classwork

Have you ever assigned a writing piece as homework? (probably, yes) Then you most likely know that stronger writing happens in the classroom, not at home. Students who are expected to write formal essays need to be writing with you, the expert, on hand, as well as other writers. The expression “a community of writers” is a valuable one that should describe your classroom climate during the essay-writing process. Lead your student writers through the steps, model the requirements, check their progress, and allow them to interact with peers in ways that give them additional support and boost confidence. As they venture into the assignment, assure your students you’ll be with them throughout the process.

  1. Let Students Choose Their Topics

If possible, start with an essay where students can choose their own topics. That way, they have a little of the stress lightened for the initial essay. Let’s say you begin with a How-To (Process) Essay. Each student can choose something he or she is good at or knows how to do. Or you could assign a Descriptive Essay, where students choose a place or experience that stands out in their minds to describe in detail. A Research-Based Essay is also a great opportunity for students to delve into topics they are truly interested in. Whichever essay type you decide to go with, you’ll definitely see more buy-in when students are allowed to choose the topic. Then if your next essay is an assigned topic based on a unit (for instance, The Holocaust), students will be moreconfident repeating the process.

  1. Conduct Frequent Peer Exchange

Throughout the process, build in stops where students exchange their efforts. For example, after drafting the “attention-grabber,” have students share them with a partner or in small groups and get feedback. List three questions on your board for students to respond to, like Does the writing grab your attention (or not)? What part of it makes you want to read more? How can it be improved to better get your attention?  You could also let students read a body paragraph or each other’s conclusions after drafting and write feedback in the margin or on a post-it. When students check out the writing of their peers (during the process), they often gain inspiration that helps them strengthen their own writing. Plus, you get students helping students!

  1. Showcase Student Successes

Students love a pat on the back when they do something right, and a great student example goes a long way in terms of modeling for the struggling writers. So, if your students are working on introductions or topic sentences, walk around reading from their drafts, and stop when you see a decent one. Praise the writer (be specific about what he or she has done well), and then quietly askif you may read this wonderful example aloud. I don’t mind interrupting my writers to read a good, strong example and pointing out its attributes. I notice students who begin erasing because they realize they were on the wrong track. Other kids raise their hands and ask me to check theirs. An “I can” mindset begins to take over the classroom!

  1. Provide Detailed Organizers

Wouldn’t it would be great if students could just take their topic and visualize the organizational structure needed for a formal essay? Well, we all know, in most cases, that’s not reality. When providing a graphic organizer, make sure it’s detailed and specific, so students can easily gather ideas and examples in the exact format required for the essay. To prevent frustration, make sure each field contains enough space for students to write in the information. You could also insert some arrows to help students see the “flow” of the paragraphs. Other helps: Remind students that they don’t have to write complete sentences on the organizer—that will come during drafting. Also, check that each student has enough information on the organizer, which is necessary before going on to the drafting.

  1. Use Mentor Texts

The philosopher, Seneca, once said, “The road to learning by precept is long, but by example short and effective.” So True! Though it does take extra time, if you can provide a good example of a completed task, students really benefit. They always say it helps. Display the mentor text on your whiteboard right after you go over the directions for the essay. “Here’s what a completed essay might look like! What are some things that we notice right away, before we even read it?”  You can do a turn and talk and have a class discussion. Then just read it through for them. They can now visualize the assignment, including the structure, approximate length, and the organization of ideas to support the thesis. When students get into drafting, pass out copies of the mentor text so they can examine it more closely in small groups. They could highlight different parts of the essay (attention grabber, thesis, topic sentences, supporting details, etc.) in different colors. They can also look at language and use of transitions. Students will surely make a transfer of knowledge to their own drafting efforts!

  1. Give Out Note-taking Sheets

Ah, middle school students. They are not the most organized creatures on the planet. If the essay requires research with hand-written notes, pass out note-taking sheets with lines where students can take bulleted notes from sources. It’s SO much better than having them take notes on their own notebook paper (rip, tear, crunch). Make a section at the top for students to record the website URL or source title, copy them back-to-back, and have them available during the research periods. They’ll be much easier for students to locate in a shuffle of papers later on.

  1. Show Them a Citation Generator

When sourcing is required, why not go the easy route? Show students how to use a reliable citation generator, and have them cut and paste their citations to a blank Word document that will become their Works Cited page. I’ve always seen reliable results from www.bibme.org, but there are plenty of others. If students are working in Google Docs, there’s a built-in citation generator in a drop-down menu. Instead of having to refer to the MLA rules for citing all different types of sources and writing down all that information from each source (ugghhh), the only task will be alphabetizing the entries.

  1. Make Paragraph Scribble Diagrams

Students are better able to focus their writing with a blueprint. A paragraph scribble diagram helps them to see the types of sentences they’ll be needing to write for a given paragraph at-a-glance. Let’s think about a body paragraph. We want students to compose a topic sentence and then introduce the first key detail in the next sentence. An additional sentence should follow to support or explain that detail. Depending on the requirements, that process should repeat, leading up to a concluding sentence. Here’s a way to have the paragraph-writing format you need really sink in for the students: Draw a big piece of paper on your whiteboard (or do an anchor chart) and scribble in your topic sentence with a certain color. Then label it off to one side using an arrow. Have students come up and scribble in the rest of the required sentences, one by one, using a different color for each requirement and labeling. It might end up looking something like this:

 

  1. Allow End-Product Sharing Time

Students are generally thrilled when given opportunities to read some of their classmates’ finished products. After the essays have been turned in, reserve 15-20 minutes in your lesson plan where you let students read each other’s ungraded pieces (with a partner or rotate in small groups). Students can give feedback on a post-it or half-sheet. Provide a few sentence starters for them to choose from. Just think of what students can take away in terms of added knowledge, not only from reading and responding to others’ writing, but from the peer feedback on their own pieces. This meaningful step will carry over to upping the confidence level when the next essay is assigned!

Though students don’t always view essay writing as desirable, with some of these steps built into your instruction, they will definitely become more comfortable with the process and ultimately more successful. Just keep an enthusiastic attitude, even if they complain. You’ve definitely got this!

If you’re looking for acomprehensive, step-by-step resource for essay writing, check out my Informative Writing – 5 Informational Essays with Guided Writing Templates. There’s everything you need to teach a Research-Based essay, Compare/Contrast essay, Problem/Solution essay, Descriptive essay, and How-To (Process) essay. You’ll have lots to choose from with the scaffolds students will appreciate, including mentor texts.

Filed Under: Essay Writing, Informative Essay, Middle School WritingTagged With: descriptive essay, essay writing, graphic organizers, How-to essay, informational essay, informative essay, mentor texts, Middle School English, Middle School writing, research-based essay

These organizers are customizable--you may type in the headers, subheaders, directions, and instructional material that best suit your needs. 

I've included these because sometimes predesigned forms are not entirely appropriate for the task at hand.

This way, if you have a particular book title or a particular main topic that you want to appear in the organizer, you can go right ahead and type it in. 

Each customizable organizer displays areas shaded in blue--these are the areas that you may type what you wish.  Additionally, when the mouse pointer passes each of these shaded areas, a tool tip will pop up briefly as you see in the yellow box here:

Here are the 17 customizable graphic organizers.  The original completed organizer appears on the left side of each slide, and its customizable version appears on the right.

The organizers on the last 5 slides have been rotated 90 degrees to fit into the slide show.

If these graphic organizers are fairly well received, I would be happy to design more of them in the near future.



Free Download

Return to Top of Page

The following 10 graphic organizers for teaching writing (reduced in size here to fit the slideshow) are available for immediate download.



You may download them completely free of charge here.

If you would like these 10 organizers PLUS the other 40 presented on this page, you may want to download the 50 WRITERizers Collection.

This collection includes ALL 50 PDF graphic organizers for teaching planning and writing as seen above on this page. Whether you use Windows or Mac, these PDF organizers are ready to print!

And, as I mentioned back in the introduction, if you like these, I’ve got a strong feeling that you’ll also like 50 More WRITERizers—the newer sibling of this collection.

Conclusion

Return to Top of Page
free graphic organizers
I would imagine that most of the graphic organizers presented on this page would be suitable for any grade level. I deliberately left out the graphic images on some of the customizable organizers simply because I don't know what grade level you teach. free graphic organizers
Although earlier versions of Adobe's PDF software included a provision for end users to import and add their own graphics, the most recent version does not. free graphic organizers

I am acutely aware of the fact that many more types of graphic organizers for teaching writing could be designed and created. free graphic organizers
Tell me what you need. free graphic organizers

Finally, as I mentioned in the Introduction of my Language Arts Graphic Organizers page, kids just seem to GET IT better when they have a means of visually and pictorially organizing their thoughts.

The "lights" in their eyes just seem to burn more brightly . . . free graphic organizers
Best wishes to you and your kids. And, let the lights shine on.

Return to Daily Teaching Tools from Free Graphic Organizers for Planning and Writing



Circle Chad Manis on Google+!


Daily Teaching Tools: Links LibrarySoftware ToolsFree Teaching Software for Language Arts Middle School Kids Teaching software: Talking avatars teach 30 language arts mini-lessons via digital projector or SMART Board while you relax, 20 writing tutorials, 60 multimedia warm ups . . . Free Writing Software: Great for Journalism and Language Arts This free writing software is designed for individual workstations. 20 step by step tutorials are available for producing articles, reviews, essays . . . Middle School English: A Dynamic Collection of Multimedia Warm Ups Free download of middle school English warm up activities for display via digital projector, SMART Board, or the classroom TV. 5 activities for each of 12 categor . . Language Arts: Great Free Teaching Software for Middle School Talking avatars teach 30 language arts mini-lessons via digital projector or smart board while YOU relax. Author's purpose, how to summarize, main idea . . . Strategies and Methods ToolsMotivating Students: This Set of Strategies Really Works with Kids A comprehensive strategy for motivating students: enhance classroom participation, teamwork, individual effort, and more. Free downloads are available. Using Teaching Strategies to Increase Participation, Interest, and Motivation Teaching Strategies: Step by step examples for planning, implementing, and evaluating inductive and deductive activities that really work with kids . . . Teaching Methods: Deliver Meaningful Content with the Deductive Approach Teaching methods: The deductive approach is a great way to deliver concepts quickly and efficiently. Start with the objective and use students' responses to structure the lesson . . . Teaching Methods: How to Effectively Use Inductive Teaching Activities with Kids These inductive teaching methods are guaranteed to increase student motivation and participation. Kids learn content while sharpening processing skills . . . Teaching Methods: An Awesome Inductive Teaching Approach for All Subject Areas Of all the inductive teaching methods, this one, is clearly my favorite. Students learn content while establishing their confidence as learners. This REALLY works! Teaching with Technology: Using the Internet, Classroom Computers, Elmo, and Wow them by teaching with technology! Useful tips on using digital projectors, classroom computers, the Internet, Elmo, and SMART Board. Free downloads. Classroom Management ToolsA Comprehensive Classroom Management Strategy that Really Works with Kids Classroom Management: Establishing classroom routines, providing warm up activities, structuring instructional time, the "Going to the Movies" approach, setting expectations, and . . . Effective Classroom Management: Organizing to Enhance Discipline and Order Organizing for effective classroom management: Use these reliable strategies to greatly improve discipline and order. A place for everything and . . . Establish Effective Classroom Routines to Guarantee a Successful School Year Classroom routines: Controlling traffic, preparing students for instruction, obtaining materials, managing the pencil sharpener, maximizing instructional time, more . . . CHAMPs Classroom Management: Designing and Implementing the System CHAMPs Classroom Management: How to develop strategies for multiple instructional approaches, tips on how to implement strategies, examples of CHAMPs strategies, and . . . Tools for Teaching WritingWriting Prompts: Over 200 for Practice Essays, Journal Entries, and More Persuasive and expository essay writing prompts, reader response questions and statements, and journal writing prompts for every day of the school year. 180 Journal Writing Prompts: Enough for Every Day of the School Year Journal Writing Prompts: These high-interest prompts will encourage kids to describe, explain, persuade, and narrate every day of the school year . . . Reader Response Questions and Prompts for Fiction and Nonfiction Reader Response Questions: These prompts give students focus and purpose as they respond in writing to fiction and nonfiction they have read . . . Essay Writing Prompts For Persuasive and Expository Compositions Essay Writing Prompts: Over two and a half school years' worth of prompts for persuasive and expository compositions. Use them for practice or for the . . . Tools for New Teachers
First Year Teachers: Great Tips for Enhancing Effectiveness Ideas for first year teachers: Establishing connections with kids, showcasing relevance, managing the classroom, using classroom routines, communicating with parents, and . . . First Day of School: Absolute Musts for Getting Off to a Great Start Ideas for a great first day of school: Use the Wow! Factor, create immediate opportunity for success, establish the tone, provide motivation, describe expectations, and . . . Establish Effective Classroom Routines to Guarantee a Successful School Year Classroom routines: Controlling traffic, preparing students for instruction, obtaining materials, managing the pencil sharpener, maximizing instructional time, more . . . Teaching Resource ToolsClassroom Libraries: Acquiring Books, Establishing Procedures, More Classroom Libraries: Everything from acquiring and organizing books to establishing procedures. Free downloads of several pertinent documents. Online Teacher Resources: Free Websites Offer Great Classroom Tools These free online teacher resources offer a wide variety of useful tools: activities, incentives, reference resources, downloadables, lesson plans, and more . . . Ideas for Teachers: Please Help Us with Your Experience and Expertise What ideas for teachers could you share with us? A strategy or procedure, perhaps? Something that you have found to be effective with kids? Tools for Your Students (much more coming shortly)25 Language Arts Graphic Organizers Language arts graphic organizers: story maps, double entry diary, concept wheel, 5 paragraph essay planner, think-pair-share chart, Venn diagrams for 2 or 3 topics, Tools Coming SoonIdeas for Bulletin Boards Bulletin Boards: All you need is card stock paper for this pile of ready-to-use, fully-customizable signs and posters. These downloadables are entirely free of charge. © Copyright 2012 by Chad Manis, DailyTeachingTools.com. All rights reserved.

Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Graphic Organizers For Descriptive Essays”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *