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Lesson Plan

Creative Outlining-From Freewriting to Formalizing

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Creative Outlining-From Freewriting to Formalizing

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Laura Hennessey DeSena

Sparta, New Jersey


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students prepare for this lesson by reading a short story in class. After a minilesson on the difference between freewriting and rehashing the plot, students freewrite a response to the story to generate an original framework for a literary analysis essay. Students discuss what makes a solid thesis and then develop a thesis idea from their body of freewriting. This central idea serves as an organizational principle for creating an outline for an original literary analysis essay.

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" is used to model this process, but any short story of equal literary merit may be used.

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Freewriting or Rehashing the Plot?: This PowerPoint presentation uses examples to demonstrate the difference between original, responsive freewriting and rehashing the plot.

Developing a Thesis Statement: Examples: This PowerPoint presentation uses examples to guide students through the process of revising and tightening a thesis statement.

ReadWriteThink Notetaker: Students can use this online tool to organize an outline or take notes on any topic.

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In Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques, Laura Hennessey DeSena notes that plagiarism is a common and frustrating problem that many teachers face. Learning ways to generate original ideas and in turn write about those ideas helps students avoid plagiarism while thinking critically, creatively, and independently. When students learn to use the subjective I/eye in the writing process, they are better prepared to construct an original framework of understanding and analysis. This knowledge of the I/eye requires students to value their own interpretations, in turn building their confidence as independent/critical thinkers and readers of literature and building their writing voice.  In this practice, students can learn how to fashion a thesis by synthesizing their insights into an all-encompassing central idea. Students learn how critical thinking skills emerge from the freewriting process, and they gain organizational skills for shaping an outline of a literary analysis essay.

Further Reading

DeSena, Laura Hennessey.  2007. Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques. (Chapter 2). Urbana, IL:  NCTE.

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