I work a lot on writing with my students. There are many great graphic organizers and writing programs out there, but here is a planning page that I have found really works. I call it the “Stars and Bars Planning Page.” They are actually more like bullets or dashes, but “stars” rhymes with “bars,” and rhyming is a memory aid. (Thanks to my boss for sharing this idea!)
Download: Stars and Bars Free Planning Page
The reason I like this planning page is because it can be used on any piece of paper. Once the students know the format, they can make their own stars and bars, and fill in the planner. Here are a few important rules:
- The planning page is for ideas, not sentences.
- Limit ideas to five words or less.
- Students start with the topic sentence and work their way down.
- Students put a check mark on the planning page after they use an idea and have written the sentence.
The sample below is from the writing prompt: We just had our winter break. Write a paragraph in which you describe your break. Be sure to include a topic sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion.
Below is a sample planning page and then first draft paragraph.
Here are some common mistakes I see students make as I work with them:
- Students try to write out sentences on their planning page; that is why I limit the ideas to five words or less. This is where they plan!
- Students omit the topic sentence and go straight for the big ideas. I frequently emphasize the importance of introducing the topic–this is also the reason I make students start at the top of the planning page.
- Students write all their big ideas into one long sentence. This is why we work through each sentence one at a time, and check off each idea on our planning page after we use it.
- Students write about something totally different then what is on their planning page. Again, making the students put a check by each part of the planning page helps.
Students need a lot of guidance, and for the teacher/parent to work through the process with them. The more they practice, the better they get!
Finally, once students are familiar with the planning page, they can just draw the stars and bars on any sheet of paper, and plan for writing.
Simplified planning page: