Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Get Out of the Box

Nancy Slack


Are your students stuck in a rut when it comes to writing? Get them to think outside the box with this lesson in organization through webbing.


The student uses a variety of strategies to prepare for writing (for example, making lists, mapping ideas, rehearsing ideas, grouping related ideas, story webs).


-Overhead projector and pens or whiteboard and markers or chalkboard and chalk
-Drawing paper for each student
-List of topics for practice webs (see attachment)


1. Gather materials, including downloading and printing attachment.
2. Read through materials for understanding.
3. Practice several webs to become comfortable with the process.
4. Make copies of the web for students to use when modeling and for independent practice.
5. Prepare topic strips. (Suggested Topics: My Favorite Subject, My Vacation, Recess is the Best, My Trip to the Zoo, My Sibling is a Pest, My Favorite Person, Walking in the Rain, The Best Day of My Life, The County Fair, __________Make the Best Pets, My Favorite Season, My Least Favorite Food, Why I Should be the President of the U.S.)
6. Set out pencils for students' use.


1. Walk to the front of the room (dramatically), as if bored beyond words.

2. Sigh loudly - "Ahh, man! I can't believe we have to write again. One more boring expository and I'm going to scream...I like ice cream for three reasons, blah, blah, blah!"

3. Ask students if they have ever felt that way about writing.

4. Tell students that teachers sometimes feel that way when grading/scoring papers. One more "I like puppies for three reasons and I'll scream!"

5. What can we do to change this attitude toward writing?

6. Explain thinking outside the box ...It is not being confined by the way you used to think or the way other people think. It is all about looking at the same old thing in a different way. It doesn't mean the prompt has to change, just the way we respond to it. Invite students to step outside the box.

7. "Today I'm going to share with you a new strategy to organize your writing that will encourage you to think outside the box and pump some excitement into your papers."

8. Show an example of a basic web
(see attachment) and how it is used. The main idea is written in the center and ideas that are brainstormed are entered into the surrounding circles before writing the first draft.

9. Put up a blank web and build it together (choose a topic from the list provided or use your own).

10. Once there are at least five ideas, begin instruction.

11. Create a legend or key such as those used in maps. Basic shapes such as stars, triangles, and circles are the easiest for students to duplicate. Explain that the purpose of this legend or key is to better organize ideas before writing so that details can be more specific and the paper more inviting and exciting to read.

12. Use the shapes to mark the ideas which can be grouped together (see examples in attachment). For example, all items that are related would receive a star, drawn next to, but outside the box. This helps to clean up stray ideas that really don't belong in the response (such as Water Gun Races).

13. Distribute organizer/worksheet (see attachment) Do several together, then fill in a web and have students build the legend and mark each idea. Circulate as children follow the model to assess understanding of the process.

14. Students build their own webs, including the key/legend independently, using a specific topic. Topics can be drawn from a hat to ensure originality.

15. Circulate to assess understanding and performance.

16. Collect completed web sheets for assessment.


In this formative assessment, students' web sheets are checked against the sample web for My Day At the Fair (see File) for correct placement of main idea and grouping, with shapes, related ideas. Brief interviews will be held with each child to determine if the child feels ready to begin writing a paper. More practice and individualized instruction will be offered to those students who feel they are not quite ready.


Students use completed webs to write about their topic.
Have a web completed with a legend and have students mark the ideas that are alike with the appropriate symbol/shape.

Attached Files

Blank and sample web graphic organizers.     File Extension: pdf

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