How to Teach Outlines to Kids

Teaching outlining can be done in one class period.

Outlining can be a frustrating part of the writing process for students to learn. Sometimes it’s easier to remove the notion of outlining from simply looking at it as part of the writing process; instead, consider outlining as a process and apply it to something right in front of them, like the clothes they are wearing, for example. Practical, hands-on application will help them learn outlining more easily.

Inform students they will “outline” outfits in the classroom, including yours and a fellow student's. Tell them the outlines must include at least three main headings with three subsequent subheadings.

Model your outfit for the students and ask them questions while you do. What is the first thing you notice about what I’m wearing? How would you categorize my outfit? Think about how you would explain my outfit to someone else.

Write on the white board in green, “Headings,” “Subheadings” in orange, and “Minor details under subheadings” in red. Next to the list, demonstrate how to begin an outline by putting the Roman numeral I on the board in green. Explain that each heading will be written next to a Roman numeral. Next to the Roman numeral I, write “Cardigan” to outline one piece of clothing you’re wearing. In this case, you’re top.

Indent and write below “Cardigan” the letter "A" in orange. Explain that subheadings are capitalized. Then write a quality of the sweater next to it, like “Long-sleeved.” Afterward, using the red marker, indent from the subhead letter “A” and add the number “1.” Explain that minor details under the subheading are given a number designation. Now add a detail under “Long-sleeved,” like “Frills on cuffs.”

Ask the students if they have any questions about outlining before proceeding. Now ask them to pair up and model for one another and create outlines of their peers' outfits. Remind them to use the proper color coding with their markers and to follow the example on the board. Give them a time limit and make yourself available for questions as they work together to finish the project.

Review the results with the class by asking pairs that are willing to come forward and share their results. Afterward have them take out a textbook and show them how outlining can be seen in the writing process. Then provide the students with a passage to outline in their textbook and review together as a class.

Andre Zollars started writing in 1999, when she worked in the editorial department at "The Missoulian." She has been published in "Endovascular Today," "High Country Angler," "Outside Bozeman" and "Western Ag Reporter." She also has written for online magazines New West, Hunting and Fishing USA. Zollars holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington.