By Galia Fussell and Fran Gregg
Surprisingly, many students do not connect thinking with writing, so prewriting is not part of their repertoire. Instead, a number of students announce that their preferable writing style is to just sit down and write, usually at the last minute before the assignment is due. Since organizing is part of thinking, prewriting techniques that help students organize their thoughts develop student thinking and writing. In order to help students improve their writing, we must find ways to get them to prewrite. We want them to think and organize with a pencil in hand or a keyboard at their fingertips.
One way to get students to prewrite is to make it appealing, easy, and helpful. Many students do not know how to prewrite or why they should be bothered. A fill-in-the-blank prewriting worksheet is the answer. Just a “taste” of how easy it is to use and the difference it can make in their writing begins the addiction process. The fill-in-the-blank prewriting worksheet takes just minutes for the instructor to make and minutes for the students to fill out. This prewriting worksheet is based on the individual assignment and assists the students in gathering the information and organizing their work.
The best part: once the students see the benefit, they can (and do!) start to make the worksheet for themselves.
Here is an example based on a Composition assignment that asks students to name a person whom they believe to be courageous and explain what makes this person courageous:
My person of courage is _____________________________________________
Topic Sentence: [must name your person and include the concept of courage] _____________________________________________________
Definition of courage: [your own] __________________________________________________
Thresholds he/she had to cross: __________________________________________
Courageous action(s): __________________________________________________
The worksheet can be as simple or as complicated as the project. The only thing that matters is helping students to understand the value that prewriting brings to their writing.