One of the challenges that my students face is developing their ideas so that they are not just skimming the surface. Asking them to ‘develop further’ usually leaves them unsure how they can extend their writing to give it the requisite depth.
Teachers often encourage students to mind map their ideas but I know I don’t always make it explicit why this technique (and using spider diagrams in particular) helps to train students to brainstorm ideas and turn them into honed, structured points.
Let’s take the following debate question as a starting point:
Is social media a good thing?
I am sure that this will bring out ideas on both sides of the debate. But how do we start to extend the initial thoughts into a meaningful argument?
First, a simple pro/con list (for and against):
So now I need to develop each of those points further. I do this using a slide diagram:
Not only will this provide a great reference for writing under pressure in the exam but it also naturally organises the ideas into a sensible, cohesive essay which would work for an article, a speech, a letter or whatever form is expected in the exam question.