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Teaching tips & resources


How to Help Your Child Organize their Thinking (Part I)

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A graphic organizer is a visual display of ideas, information, or concepts that your child can use to plan their writing. Familiar graphic organizers include a Venn diagram, an outline, a plot diagram, and a storyboard or story map. They help your child generate ideas and then get their thoughts in order so they have a roadmap to follow when they begin drafting.

During the writing process, graphic organizers are effective tools for both brainstorming and prewriting. In this post we start with two simple brainstorming tools that make generating ideas easy and visual!

The Bubble or Cluster Map. If your child often chooses to write about the first topic that comes to mind only to find himself stuck a few sentences in, use a bubble map to increase his initial output of ideas. Write the prompt or topic of the assignment in the middle circle and require him to fill in all six bubbles, each with a unique idea. If you are working together, encourage him to connect related words or details to each outer bubble. Bubble (or cluster) mapping will force your child to slow down as he considers the relevancy of his ideas and their connection to the prompt. This additional time should result in a selection of higher-quality ideas from which to choose.

The Inverted Triangle. Other children have trouble getting started because they select topics that are not specific enough. For example, if your daughter chooses to write a narrative about her first vacation to Hawaii, it will likely read like a laundry list of activities with very little description. But by narrowing this topic down to the retelling of her first time zip lining through a tropical forest, she can “zoom in” on a specific setting and event, which are far easier to describe in vivid detail. If this sounds like your child, try using the Inverted Triangle during brainstorming.