Informational Essay: Creating an Outline for a Draft
In this informational writing lesson plan, students will use their organized notes to create an essay outline. They will begin to write out key pieces of the essay, such as the thesis statement, supporting points, and concluding statement, in preparation for the first draft.
Students will be able to complete an outline to prepare an informational essay draft.
- Tell the class that the key to writing an effective informational essay is communicating about the topic clearly and concisely. Explain that today they will write out more formal statements for each part of their essay.
- Invite students to practice articulating a more formal thesis statement based on a simple main idea statement. Write an example on the board, such as “Pollution harms the oceans.”
- Ask for student input as you talk through the formation of a more formal statement, such as, “Pollution has a significant impact on the ocean because the presence of trash and chemicals in the water threatens marine animals and their environment.”
- Explain that the focus of today’s lesson will be to create an outline of their essay, on which they’ll generate an official thesis statement, supporting points, and a concluding statement.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(10 minutes)
- Explain that an outline is a helpful guide that writers use to organize their essays. Outlines support the structure of the essay and allow the writer to make connections between the ideas.
- Share an anchor chart with characteristics of a strong informational essay:
- Hooks the reader
- Introduces the thesis clearly
- Cites borrowed information
- Supports the thesis with evidence
- Includes only relevant details
- Uses formal language
- Is free from personal opinions and the pronoun “I”
- Begins each body paragraph with a transition word or phrase
- Utilizes text features, like headings, to organize and enhance the text
- Display a blank copy of the Draft an Outline: Informational Writing worksheet and go over the different sections. Point out that the outline has a place for each of these important parts, and explain the difference between the graphic organizer and the outline. Tell students that the graphic organizer was filled out with incomplete sentences, but the outline uses those notes and ideas to create complete sentences that can then be used in the first draft.
- Post the key terms for today’s lesson, and provide a definition for each:
- thesis statement: a short statement in the introduction paragraph that lets the reader know what the essay is going to be about
- supporting points: the most important things you have to say in support of your thesis statement
- concluding statement: a short statement in the concluding paragraph that wraps up the essay and leaves the reader with something to think about
- Point out some factors that make a good thesis statement, and display these in the classroom:
- Write it as a sentence, rather than a question.
- Use your own words.
- Avoid statements like, “In this essay, I will talk about…”
- Find a balance between a very narrow statement ("Pollution has caused three local beaches in the area to close") and a very broad statement ("Pollution has consequences for the ocean").
- Keep the statement clear and concise.
- Think aloud about a thesis statement for the example research question used in the lesson’s introduction. For the ocean pollution question, a thesis statement might be: "Pollution has a significant impact on the ocean because the presence of trash and chemicals in the water threatens marine animals and their environment."
Guided Practice(20 minutes)
- Continue completing one to two key pieces of the outline with information from the example research question (e.g., How does pollution affect the ocean?). Invite students to participate and make suggestions.
- Put students into partnerships or groups, and provide prompts for discussion and writing practice for their own informational essays. For example:
- Practice writing three types of hooks for your essay (e.g., interesting question, anecdote, fact or statistic).
- Identify the transition words or phrases you will use throughout your essay.
- Brainstorm the visuals and text features you could include in your essay. Where would you place them in the text, and how would that enhance the reader’s experience?
- Record one supporting point on your outline. Evaluate your use of formal language.
- Gather the class together and call on volunteers to share examples of what they came up with for each of the prompts. Provide feedback and additional ideas, as appropriate.
- Distribute a copy of the Draft an Outline: Informational Writing worksheet to each individual, and review the sections. Allow time for students to ask any clarifying questions.
Independent working time(20 minutes)
- Provide time for students to complete their outline.
- At the end of the lesson, instruct students to begin drafting their essay once they have completed their outline. Note that student drafts should be complete outside of class but prior to the next lesson, when students will revise.
- Teach pre-lessons about different aspects of informational writing, such as writing hooks, transition words and phrases, formal and informal language, and citing evidence in writing. (See optional worksheets in the Materials section.)
- Share examples of formal and informal language (e.g., Informal: The game of chess was invented a really long time ago in India around the sixth century. Formal: The game of chess was invented in India around the sixth century.)
- Provide sentence frames to support students as they write their thesis statements. A simple example is: ____ is important because ____.
- Share several examples of thesis statements and corresponding concluding statements to show how the statements are related without being identical.
- Invite students to work in a teacher-led small group as they complete their outline.
- Ask students to write their thesis statement in more than one way. Then, have them share with the group, explaining how they generated the different options and ultimately chose the most effective statement.
- Circulate during the independent working portion of the lesson to evaluate student understanding of how to organize information. Provide feedback on student work as needed.
Review and closing(2 minutes)
- Call on volunteers to share how the graphic organizer helped them with their outline.
- Reiterate that the purpose of the outline is to come up with a solid framework for the first draft and catch any issues of organization and flow early on.
- Preview the next lesson by telling students that once they have written their first draft, they will practice revision techniques to make improvements to their essay.