The most difficult part of giving a writing assignment is usually helping the students choose and refine their topics. Assigned subjects are often so generic they result in paragraphs or essays that roam all over the place and say next to nothing. These materials help students come to grips with a writing assignment. The packet provides students with a range of subjects which can be used with many different curricula. Additional handouts provide techniques for refining a topic and organizing details to supplement the writing.
CHOOSING A TOPIC
This handout provides a list of suggested topics based on the journalistic questions: Who? What? When? and Where? Most of these groupings contain suggestions that lend themselves to any of the four major types of writing: narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive. They can be used in almost any curriculum. You may want to use this as a reference point, selecting only the Who? category for a biography assignment or the Where? category for a descriptive one, for instance
REFINING YOUR TOPIC
In this section there are two different techniques explored for refining a topic choice. A blank brainstorming handout is provided for students, along with a sample completed handout. An alternate listing handout is included with a completed sample. Students should be encouraged to fill in as many details as possible, no matter how random. It is from these details they can refine their topics. The teacher can use either or both techniques.
ORGANIZING YOUR TOPIC AND FILLING IN THE DETAILS
We return to the original journalism questions with a blank topic information sheet. Notice that the questions “Why” and “How” have been added to this organization sheet. They are included to provide students the opportunity to cover all details important to their topic. A guide is included which explains what is expected in each section of the information sheet. This guide should be distributed to the students for use as a reference. The teacher can point out to the students that some of the “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” and “Why” questions can be answered in a good topic sentence.