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I've created a pre-writing worksheet that will help students to understand what a prompt is asking them to write, organize their thinking, and make a plan for their writing. The activity has graphic organizers for unpacking the prompt and planning elements of argument, an outline for organizing their thinking, and a lined space for adding additional quotes and evidence that they could use while writing. I use this activity before students have an in-class essay so that they are prepared to come to class, sit down, and just write.
This activity is good for middle and high school students, and the amount of scaffolding needed for your class can be determined based on their needs. For my seniors, I just hand it out and assign it as homework. For my freshmen, I allow them class time to work on it, so that I am available for questions if needed.