Posted by: jockmackenzie | October 5, 2009

Writing – The Paragraph (Scattergrams)

JoJo 1

Double click to enlarge any image

I am a firm believer in the “Plan your work, then work your plan” philosophy. I like to think that I offer this opportunity to my students. The whole idea of “The Scattergram” supports this theme.

I thought I’d invented the term ‘scattergram’ but later discovered it is used in what I would call statistical analysis. Dictionary.com defines a scattergram like this:

scatter diagram
–noun Statistics.
a graphic representation of bivariate data as a set of points in the plane that have Cartesian coordinates equal to corresponding values of the two variates.

But I digress. My version of the ‘scattergram’ is: a graphic representation of a hodge-podge of ideas a student scatters all around a topic. (The topic being centred on a page of looseleaf) It’s brainstorming on paper in a haphazard fashion.

The example above shows a variety of ideas about a character (JoJo McCool) scattered across a sheet of paper. The same concept could have been used in the Monsters Inc. paragraphs I talked about in a recent blog about Methods of Elaboration. Whatever the topic, ideas and sometimes questions are gathered helter skelter on a page.

The second step is to find similarities in the ideas that have been gathered:

JoJo 2

A quick look will show that the ideas have been divided into physical characteristics and personality traits.

Step Three is yet another time-saving step. Rather than trying to leap immediately into writing the description, the ideas can be organized into some semblance of order. Here’s one possibility:

JoJo 3

Using numbers for the physical characteristics and letters for the personality traits, an order has been determined.

As with most of my blog entries, this is simply an overview of the concept. Like several of the recent entries, this ‘scattergram’ idea is explained in more detail in my book Essay Writing: Teaching the Basics from the Ground Up (Pembroke 2007). Nevertheless, I hope I have given you an idea that will be useful in helping your kids plan more complete pieces of work. Best wishes!


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