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Multimodal Mondays: Storyboards for organizing (and reorganizing) writing

posted: 11.26.13 by Andrea Lunsford

Using a storyboard of sticky notes or notecards that can be physically rearranged can be a useful way for students to think about how organization affects a text.

Use storyboards to focus on the purposes and effects of organization

Background reading before class
Everything’s an Argument, pp. 376-77
The St. Martin’s Handbook, section 3f, “Planning”
The Everyday Writer, section 7e, “Make a plan”
EasyWriter, section 2d, “Planning and drafting”

In class
Lead students through a class discussion of the arrangement of a text with which everyone is familiar, such as a well-known children’s story or film plot. As a class, discuss questions like these:

  • What happens in the text? In what order are the events or ideas arranged?
  • For what reason does one section of the text end and another begin?
  • How are the events or ideas connected to each other? Do the connections and transitions make sense?
  • What is the effect of the organization overall?
  • As you discuss, have the class describe each event or idea briefly, and write each description on a separate card or sticky note (or another medium that you can display as a storyboard). Then ask students to suggest other possible arrangements of the ideas. Try random arrangements or reverse-order arrangements as well as subtle changes.
  • How does rearranging the storyboard elements change the overall text?
  • What else needs to change so that the text makes sense when the elements are rearranged? Why?
  • Could the text serve the same purpose with a very different organization? Why or why not?

Ask each student to make both a written outline of the current organization of a writing project they are working on and a sticky-note storyboard of that outline and bring both versions to class. Then, have everyone rearrange another student’s sticky-note storyboard and write a paragraph explaining how the reorganization would change the writing project.

Reflection on the activity
Ask students to reflect on the activity, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing:

  • How did the other student reorganize your storyboard? What reasons did he or she give for the new organization?
  • Were you persuaded to try the new organization? Why or why not?
  • If you followed the reorganization plan, how different would your finished writing project be from what you had originally planned? What other changes would you need to make? Why?


photo courtesy of Shuqiao Song

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