An Elementary Idea
After students have completed writing their essays, but before students begin writing their rough drafts, they take an imaginary trip to elementary school and spend thirty minutes or so playing with tinker toys—really. I let students work in groups, and they must replicate a structure made of tinker toys that is located at the front of my classroom.
Students build a model that assists them in organizing and planning their essay and in arranging their ideas. After students build the replica, they copy it on to their paper, and it becomes the planning page for their essay. If students visualize the structure of an essay, they are more likely to complete the assignment.
Not all students like to write. This method allows those students who are not writers to arrange and organize their ideas more easily.
How Does This Tinker Toy Strategy Work?
Students will understand that their topic goes in the middle and that their three main ideas branch out from the center and appear in the three circles below the center circle, which are connected by the straight lines. Extending from the three circles in which the main points are located are supporting ideas.
Once students see their essay coming together, have them copy the tinker toy diagram down on paper. In the areas for supporting details, all students have to do is to list some ideas that support their main idea which appears in the larger circle.
If students fill in this tinker toy diagram correctly, their entire essay will be planned. I do this assignment in addition to pre-writing to encourage students to take their ideas and organize them appropriately.
Procedures for Teaching
1. Build the structure of tinker toys as your students watch.
2. Model essay writing and explain how the structure made of tinker toys reflects the structure of their essay. Explain to students that the center circle is representative of their topic and go on to explain how their three main ideas will be in the three circles, etc.
3. Show them the final project. Distribute copies of a diagram, and show students exactly how this method works.
4. Be supportive of their efforts.