Prewriting is personal. No two people think exactly the same way. There are, however, certain styles of prewriting that appeal to different thinkers. Over the years, I developed a system of labeling students’ various prewriting styles.
Ordered prewriting is the process of categorizing and sorting. Two examples of this style are questioning and outlining. Through questioning, students organize their thoughts by writing answers to Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions regarding the topic. An outline is a formal list with headings and sub-headings and can serve as the frame for a much longer piece of writing. The table of contents in most book is an example of an outline.
Structured prewriting is a system of drawing the ideas behind the topic. There are countless examples and each one visually represents the concept in some way. When students use a web, or mind-map as it is sometimes called, they write the topic in the center of a sheet of paper and draw a line linking related ideas to it. They continue linking ideas until the web is complete. T-Charts and Venn Diagrams are also examples of graphic prewriting techniques since both separate and contrast ideas through spacial reasoning.
Liberated prewriting allows thoughts to flow naturally as they occur. Through free writing, the author writes every thought that comes to mind that is relevant to the topic. When students choose to list, they write words or short phrases in quick succession as thoughts occur. This “stream of consciousness” allows for the uninterrupted flow of creative ideas, but can get messy and confusing if the ideas are not later reviewed for continuity of thought.