an example, suppose you are working with the Social Studies topic of transportation
(Grade level 5-8), and you are discussing the advantages and disadvantages
of cars, bikes, buses and trains.
play Consequences with this topic, ask a what-if question and invite the
students to explore as many consequences as they can. For example:
if we banned all cars?
This kind of
question focuses students on imagining and then solving transportation problems.
Start by drawing
the beginnings of a flow chart on a large sheet of paper, or on the board.
consequences from the students and start adding them to the chart, such
Point out that
every new link may have both a positive consequence and a negative one:
Now ask the
students to work in pairs, each pair with a separate sheet, adding as many
possible consequences as they can. Encourage the students to look for advantages
as well as disadvantages for each consequence.
chart will be different, but here is one example:
each other's results and are free to borrow any ideas that they like. They
can revise their own consequence chart after seeing others' ideas. (This
is pooling knowledge and imagination. It's not "cheating.")
flow charts, each student now has a framework for writing one of these texts:
How cities would change without cars
Would the world be better or worse without cars?
Why we must ban all cars
The dangers of banning cars
recount: What would happen if the oil ran out
There are likely to be a number of different "chains" of consequences
in each chart. To help decide which ones to write about and in what order,
it helps if students number the chains before they start the essay:
number represents a new paragraph in the essay. By numbering the chains,
students provide themselves with a map to follow when writing their argument
to ask when assessing a Consequence chart:
the arrows and numbers clearly show the order in which to read the text?
each step in the sequence connected by at least one arrow?
steps arranged in a sequence that makes sense?
sheets for flow charts can be photocopied from The
Information Toolkit (any title or edition), page 29. These books
also include assessment sheets for explanations, arguments, discussions
activity shows how a flow chart can be used as a visual planner,
that is, a visual text that helps us to plan an essay. Visual planners are
sometimes called frameworks or graphic organizers.
charts are only one kind of visual planner. Here
are some others to try:
storyboard to plan a procedure
(such as how to cook popcorn)
timeline to plan a recount (such as a field trip report,
or a newspaper story)
table to plan a discussion (such
as a comparison of two or more points of view on a topic)
tree diagram to plan an information report (such as an essay
on "Animals of the Ocean" or "Three Kinds of Volcanoes").
are we doing this?
is an aid to clear thinking. By visualizing the essay as a flow
chart before we start to write it, we don't get lost in the detail of
many unconnected "facts."
of getting lost in the details, the flow chart provides a "map
through the forest" of facts.
an essay first as a visual text organizes the key points, and requires
us to ask:
am I trying to say in this essay?
is the most important point?
should come first, what comes next, and how should I finish the essay?
flow chart provides a framework that helps many of those struggling
writers who ask,
should I write about?"
do I start?"
should I write next?" and
do I finish this?"
lesson plan based on this strategy can be found in The
Information Toolkit, Book B, pages 104-7.
examples of flow charts can be found in:
Information Toolkit page
See What You Mean, pages 4959.
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© Black Cockatoo Publishing PL 2006, 2011