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Writing: Organization

Bringing a Skeleton to Life


Today's Snack: It would go very well with today's theme if you could have a leftover chicken wing (the BBQ kind is delicious!) or drumstick. But if you don't have those bones, you can have some celery sticks and pretend! Enjoy a tall glass of water and imagine what would happen if a skeleton drank it!




Print out skeleton picture, below

Cut 8-10 pieces of scrap paper into a "skull" and various "bones,"

Including foot bones, to fit over the skeleton picture

Scotch tape | Piece of lined writing paper | No. 2 pencil



Think of your writing plan as being like a skeleton, hanging from a hook in a science lab.


You have planned your paper's hidden structure - the point you want to make -- the basics of what you need to research and write - your beginning, middle and end.


You have a clear idea of its final shape. For example, you want to end up with a five-paragraph book report, or a three-page paper on animals as symbols in ancient Egypt.


Now it's time to fill out that skeleton. Only instead of adding flesh and bones to a skeleton, you're going to add the words and ideas to your structure to make it come alive. Just for an example, think of the skeleton's head as the beginning of your writing assignment, the middle of the body as the middle of your paper, and the lower legs and feet as the ending.


For some kinds of writing, you can keep your "skeleton" pretty simple.


The more complex your paper or story is going to be, the more structure you will need as you plan your paragraphs.


If your paper or story is going to be short but sweet, keep your structure simple - maybe five paragraphs, with a one-paragraph beginning, three paragraphs in the middle with details advancing your theme, and then a final fifth paragraph wrapping up to your conclusion.


Think of paragraphs as like the major bones in a skeleton. Each major bone has an important purpose - the backbone holds up the body, the shoulder bones hold up the arms, the hip bones hold up the legs, etc. And all the bones connect to each other.


It's the same thing with writing. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence, or key point, that somehow connects to the overall topic or key point of your paper, and moves your text along toward the conclusion.


Usually, the first sentence in each paragraph should suggest that paragraph's topic and link to the paragraph that came before. If your paper or story is pretty short, that's true: get to the point quickly, right off the bat!


But if your paper or story is several pages long, you might need a sentence or even two of transition to start off a new paragraph and THEN get to the main point of that new paragraph.


Usually, a paragraph has more than one sentence. Usually, though, a paragraph shouldn't have too many sentences, or the reader won't be able to understand so many thoughts.


Look at the skeleton picture, below, and notice how small the head and feet are, in relation to the rest of the body. Take that as a cue for how short your beginning and ending should be, in most papers.


Think of it this way: if a person's head is huge and weighs a lot, it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the body to hold it up. So a long, complex beginning to a piece of writing is usually a pretty bad idea.


Similarly, the ending of your story, like the bones in the feet, should be stable and powerful, able to hold up the rest of your story - or skeleton - so that it literally can "stand," or be satisfying to the reader.


Now let's use the skeleton model to plan a short story. Why don't you write it about ways we can all take good care of our bodies, including our bones?


On the "skull" that you cut out, write a word or phrase that can symbolize what you want to say in the beginning. On the "foot bones" that you cut out, write a word or a phrase to symbolize what will be the main point of the end of your story.


On the other bones, write a word or two to remind you of various other points you want to make. These will be the paragraphs in the middle.


Lay your "bones" over the skeleton picture until they are in the order you think you'd like to use. Tape them in place with Scotch tape.


Now use a piece of lined paper to write your five-paragraph paper, using this skeleton outline.


When you're finished, keep both the skeleton and your paper, and show them to at least two people to get their reactions to how you "boned up" to write a good story!






By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010





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