Before You Write, Picture It

Image by torres21 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In an earlier post I suggested two ways to improve your writing before you begin: define your purpose and identify your audience. Here’s one more thing to try before writing: picture what you want to say with a graphic organizer.

Graphic organizers come in various shapes and sizes and by many names as well – mind maps, word webs and KWL charts, to mention only a few. They’re good visual communication tools, useful for conveying meaning, illustrating concepts, and showing relationships and links between ideas.
Here is a simple graphic organizer showing the main concepts outlined in Two Ways to Improve Your Writing Before You Begin.

Click to enlarge. Click X to return to blog.

The graphic organizer above is like a map or a web. It identifies the kind of writing at the top and shows how some of the elements of a blog post link to it and to each other. It would be easy to expand this drawing by linking descriptive words or phrases to tone, content, structure (organization), and so on. You could also add additional elements, such as emphasis, rhythm or imagery.
Graphic organizers are great for mapping out an entire piece of writing, but they’re also helpful for working out problems within a written piece. How do ideas relate to each other? Which should come first? Do some ideas not belong here? Would they be better somewhere else? What’s missing?
Drafting a rough sketch of what you want to say is also a warm-up to the formal process of writing. And the draft needn’t be elaborate – the example above is fine for planning. Adding colour can be helpful as well – in this example, a different colour represents each level of detail.  
Plenty of free graphic organizers are available online. The site  is a good place to start. You could also try Free Technology for Teachers and edtechteacher for more ideas.
For more detailed information about different kinds of graphic organizers and how they can be used to support learning, go to the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials website. 
Finally, don’t hesitate to experiment with form in order to create your own version, customized to your writing task. Sometimes just the process of sketching the “shape” of what you’re trying to say leads to a deeper understanding of your material. Have fun with these – “drawing” what you write can be habit forming, and that’s a good thing.

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