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 a strong single paragraph; see also instructions for a five-paragraph essay
and a research paper.
Time Required: As much as your child needs
- Write the numbers 1-5 on a piece of paper.
- Next to #1, write your answer to the question, or your opinion on the topic, in a complete sentence. For example, if asked to write a paragraph about your favorite person, you might write, "My favorite person is my mother."
- Next to #2, write one reason in support of your answer. For example, on the favorite person paragraph, you might write, "She knows how to help with homework."
- Next to #3, write another reason in support of your answer. You might write, "She takes me wherever I need to go."
- Next to #4, write a third reason in support of your answer. You might write, "She is very good at reading stories."
- Next to #5, rephrase your answer or opinion from #1. You might write, "My mother is a wonderful person to me."
- Copy your sentences #1-#5, one after the other, on your final sheet of paper. And there you have it -- a coherent five-sentence paragraph: "My favorite person is my mother. She knows how to help with homework. She takes me wherever I need to go. She is very good at reading stories. My mother is a wonderful person to me."
- The example used here is a very simple paragraph for an early elementary assignment, but the same technique can be used for a more advanced open-ended question. Just answer the question in the first sentence; write one reason for that answer in the second; another reason in the third sentence; a third reason in the fourth sentence; and rephrase your answer for the fifth sentence.
- 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.
- If the teacher is asking for a paragraph of six or seven sentences, simply add more reasons.
What You Need
- Scratch paper for the #1-#5 list and for any brainstorming.
- A piece of paper for the final paragraph
- Pen or pencil