Planning - Using Noughts and Crosses I Oxford Open Learning


    Planning – Using Noughts and Crosses

    Planning An Essay Efficiently

    Teachers stress the importance of planning. Examiners stress the importance of planning. Everyone stresses the importance of planning.
    But how many of us actually have a plan about how to plan?

    We might jot down a few ideas, shove in a few bullet points, chuck down a few ideas at random, write ‘Plan’ and underline it. Or we might just not bother and just start writing in what we convince ourselves is a vaguely planned way, but what can be the incoherent ramblings of a fool!

    We do need to be more efficient, but we don’t want to waste precious time planning when we could be writing. So, here’s a plan for a plan: The Grid

    The Grid

    The Planning Grid

    Benefits: Quick, contained, maintains focus on the question, helps to produce coherent structure, helps make purposeful links to relevant Assessment Objectives.

    Process (Flexibility and Making It Work For You)

    • Draw a noughts and crosses grid (3×3).
    • Write key word(s) of the question in the central box.
    • Write ‘Intro’ in a box (not top left).
    • Write ‘Conclusion’ in another box (not bottom right).
    • Begin to fill in remaining boxes with key ideas (and/or quotations) relevant to the question.
    • You have permission to shade in one (possibly two) of the remaining empty boxes.
    • If relevant, ‘arrow out’ to other relevant Assessment Objectives
    • Now, look at the grid and number the squares in the most logical, coherent order.

    The positioning of the intro and conclusion boxes is important. You are trying to create an active plan, not a flow chart so don’t ‘contain’ your thinking by constructing an obvious beginning and end.
    The ‘permission to shade’ is great and really rather freeing – it gives you permission to select the best points in any argument and, very importantly, stops you writing too much and padding out an essay with irrelevant waffle.

    The last bullet point is essential (otherwise this is just a tidier version of a spider diagram). The grid allows you to clearly see connections between the different points and arguments you want to make and the numbering will help you to organise your ideas into the most cohesive and coherent order, thus strengthening the argument you wish to present.

    For some of my students, this has been a game changer. But not for all. It’s up to you.

    Fancy a game of noughts and crosses anyone?

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    Sarah Russell is an experienced Secondary School English Teacher. She has worked in a variety of roles, from classroom teacher to Key Stage Manager, to Head of Department. Sarah specialises at Advanced Level and is a firm believer in bringing more creativity into the classroom.