For the early stages of the writing process in my English classes, students use two tools to quickly gather their thoughts and effectively craft an argumentative thesis: the Path to Purpose and the 7 Steps to a Thesis.
The first of these is the 'Path to Purpose,' a graphic organizer that is easy to sketch out.
Based on the five root question words, the Path to Purpose serves to unpack the nuts and bolts of a text. As a teacher, this is an especially useful tool for quickly seeing what students understand, and where their understanding breaks down.
Who - who is in the text, who wrote it, who is mentioned, who the author/narrator is speaking to
What - what happened, what are the key ideas, what is the climax/resolution
When - where/when of the world of the text, where/when was it written, consider place and time flexibly
Why - root words, big ideas - I aim for concepts here, and theme words, not lengthy explanations, at the core of it, what is this text about?
Here is a Path to Purpose filled out using the anchor text of 'Out, Out-' by Robert Frost:
You can use a Path to Purpose for mapping out elements of the Preamble to the US Constitution:
The Path to Purpose works for students as a way to organize their thoughts and refer back to the text for more details. They can compare their organizer with another student's to see what each thought was important. For teachers, the Path functions as a quick formative assessment and can easily be scanned for strengths and weaknesses in student comprehension. For using the Path as part of the writing process, check out my 7 Steps to a Thesis