The Structured Writing Program only centers on the composition of first draft paragraphs. Once this initial draft is completed, students can apply relevant skills and utilize the flow of their inner voice to make modifications. My observations indicated that a well-designed rough draft paragraph made this second phase of revision much easier.
Finally, I recognized that rough draft paragraphs need to be focused on one specific concept or idea. Writing a paragraph that began as follows: “There are many causes of the American Revolution.” resulted in a relatively meaningless paragraph that only listed general ideas. A paragraph that began with a specific, centered main idea produced an analytical rough draft paragraph.
For example, “The Colonial leadership refused to comprise on the Stamp Act, even though the British showed a willingness to make modifications.”
Therefore, each main paragraph in the Structured Writing system is based upon one area of focus. The idea of centering each paragraph on an area of focus became crystallized in my mind in the mid-1980s when I was consulting to an insurance company. I was brought in to work with the company’s engineers who analyzed the condition and status for pieces of equipment that could cost millions of dollars. This analysis was necessary before the company could determine appropriate insurance rates. These engineers had to write clear reports stating problems and recommendations related to these expensive machines. Clients and the actuaries of the insurance company read these reports. I was brought in to train the engineers to write clearer reports that were both analytical
What I found was training these engineers to create an area of focus for each paragraph of the report resulted in highly improved paragraphs. For example, one paragraph might center on the narrow focus of “pitting in the shell of the steam drum.” Consequently, the reader understood the singular purpose of the paragraph.
I hope you have fun with this six-step Structured Writing process as you teach students the value of clarity and analysis in their writing.