The Problem with Using the "Outline" for Reluctant Writers

Recently I was scouting around on the internet when I found a blog that promised a writing tip for kids with learning disabilities. Of course, I started reading it!

After teasing me for quite some time, the author finally revealed the tip that was promised to turn a student’s writing around.


The tip?



Have the student make an outline.


I exited out right away. If kids with learning issues could write an outline, they wouldn’t be struggling to write.


The reason?


Writing an outline is a higher level processing skill. It requires organization of thoughts, the ability to think in abstracts, strong working memory, and manipulation of information in the brain.

Reluctant writers, unique learners, and students with learning disabilities can’t do this…not yet, anyway.


But don’t despair!


Executive functioning skills needed to form a writing outline can be taught, but you need to break down the outline process into smaller steps as well as go back into the student’s hierarchy of learning and make sure that motor skills and perceptual skills are strong.


And, believe me, the outline is not a new or significant tip or trick.



The outline has been around since I was a kid, and my granddaughter just told me the other day that I was alive when the dinosaurs stomped around. So, there you have it!


My message today…please, please, please don’t expect your unique learner to write an outline until you fill in some of the groundwork.


Executive functioning skills can be learned, but like any skill, you need to pave a strong foundation before expecting the unique learner or learning disabled student to organize thoughts and ideas in a meaningful way.


Like those used in the old-fashioned writing outline.


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