Organizing thoughts into a coherent piece of writing can be a daunting task for children with learning disabilities. The best way to pin those ideas down and put them into a form that others can follow is to use an outline. The tried-and-true I-II-III A-B-C outline works whether your child has to churn out a paragraph, a page or a paper. Here's how to use it for an essay; see also instructions for a single paragraph
and a research paper.
Time Required: As much as your child can stand
- On a piece of scratch paper, write the Roman numerals I through V, with plenty of space in between.
- Following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each Roman numeral. The first sentence answers the question, the next three provide supporting reasons, and the last sentence rephrases the first one. See Example 1.
- For the moment, ignore Roman numerals I and V. You will do these first and last paragraphs after the middle ones.
- Under Roman numerals II, III and IV, write the letters A, B, C and D.
- Again following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each letter. You already have the first sentence. A, B, and C will be three reasons in support of it. D can rephrase your starting sentence; be a fourth reason in support; be replaced by an extra sentence to further develop one of the other reasons; or be omitted entirely. See Example 2.
- When you have completed Step 5 for Roman numerals II, III and IV, write the letters A, B, C and D under Roman numerals I and V.
- Again following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each letter. You already have the first sentence. A, B, and C will rephrase the sentences you wrote in Roman numerals II, III and IV. D will rephrase the opening sentence for each paragraph. See Example 3.
- If all that rephrasing is too hard, brainstorm a creative opening or closing for your essay. You might try using a story, a quote or an observation. Your teacher may have rules about using the first person in an essay; if you're not sure, it's better not to do it.
- On another sheet of scratch paper, write all the sentences from your outline, in order, with the sentence from each Roman numeral starting a new paragraph. This is your rough draft. See Example 4.
- Read the rough draft aloud and smooth out any language that seems awkward. Try to vary the sentence structure within each paragraph (for example, don't start two sentences in a row with the same word). Proofread spelling and grammar.
- When you're satisfied with your draft, copy it over neatly or type it, depending on your teacher's requirements. Congratulations on completing a well-organized essay!
- It may help to brainstorm before writing the sentences. On a piece of scratch paper, jot down any ideas at all in support of your answer. You may even want to brainstorm reasons for a number of answers, and then pick the answer with the strongest support. Pick three of your ideas and turn them into sentences for your outline.
- Graphic organizers can also be helpful in turning up ideas. Try a concept web, with your answer in the middle and ideas in all the little bubbles.
What You Need
- Scratch paper for outline, rough draft and brainstorming
- Paper for writing out the final essay
- Pen or pencil