Ask the Teacher: organizing writing


Q: My fourth-grade son has a difficult time trying to organize his writing. He is a great reader, but getting his thoughts down on paper seems to be impossible for him. What suggestions do you have so I can help him to improve his writing skills?

A: Because your son is a good reader, the library is a good place to start. Check out short children’s books such as “Curious George” or a “Clifford” book. Read with your son.

Encourage him to tell you what happened first in the book, next and then at the end of the story. By doing this, your son has just completed a verbal outline. Explain that this is one way that authors organize their thoughts, and it is a way that he could organize his own writing.

Read another book together and show him how to make a timeline of the events that happened in the story. Have him write the beginning and ending events on the line and then fill in the middle of the line with a few other events that happened. Point out that this is another way to organize his writing.

Another technique is to simply talk to your son about what he wants to say or what he knows about a topic. What he says should then be written down on 3-by-5 cards and placed, by him, in the order of their importance. He can then complete his writing assignment.

Remember this — the more your son writes, the better his writing skills will be.

Parents should send questions and comments to or go to

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