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Outlining: does everyone do it?

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I confess: we don't outline. I did actually have my older sons learn basic outlining , but not one of them continued to use it in higher level studies (upper years of high school, university)--yet they all write extremely well and get top grades on their essays (from other instructors, not just me!). Now I have son #4 coming up. He is currently grade 7 and loves writing, producing far more than ever required by me ; ) I have used/ adapted IEW for writing instruction over the years, so he's familiar with key word outlining, bu I have yet to walk him through more traditional outlining as taught my SWB. And I keep wondering: do I need to? Am I shortchanging him somehow if I skip this? When will he actually *use* this skill? (I know I never outlined when I was in university.... Maybe I should have ; ) ) IEW even teaches a more "dynamic" style of notetaking for both written materials and lectures which does not depend on the traditional liner style, and I'm thinking I may have him learn that further down the road... But still I second-guess myself. Any thoughts on this? Thanks.


Robin (formerly StaceyL in Canada)

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I once joked with my daughter that someone came up with formal outlining as an excuse to let Roman Numerals Live.


About once every couple of years I have her do a formal outline just to be aware of the process. She does informal outlining (key words, bullet points...) constantly.


Learning to organize information/data is the skill I hope to implant. We focus on function, not form in this arena.


If she struggled to organize thoughts/data/information in a logical or systematic manner to meet a given task I would do more.

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I made all my kids spend a year outlining history in 7th-th grade (which year depended on the kid).


Some of my kids liked it and used it as a study method even in college.


One never outlined a thing after I stopped forcing the issue. He continues to do well academically, but he learns and studies differently.


So in my experience, the usefulness of outlining depends on the kid.


I have made sure that each of my kids knows HOW to outline. It is one more tool in their bag of study tricks. They may or nay not use it, but I would feel negligent not to have given them the tool.

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I have made sure that each of my kids knows HOW to outline. It is one more tool in their bag of study tricks. They may or nay not use it, but I would feel negligent not to have given them the tool.


Me too... even though I hated every second of it. I'm not an outliner at all, never have been. But everyone is different and I wanted my kids to have that tool if necessary.

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I have never outlined. I do not teach outlining.

I teach taking notes from books and lectures, not in complete sentences to save time, with bullets and color and other tools to structure notes. This sufficed for me throughout graduate school.


I have taught outlining because I see it as a tool. But what this is pretty much how I take notes. I'll never forget that I took a history class at a local college after college for fun and because I had not studied any history in college and I had to turn in my notes to be reviewed (it was a freshmen class). I had to redo my notes to make the grade, and the funny thing is I studied from my real notes.


I've been reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Things-Done-Stress-Free-Productivity/dp/0142000280/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330003539&sr=8-1 and one of the things he discusses is the idea that most folks do "natural planning" as opposed to a big series outlining sort of planning.


Here's his take on what natural planning normally does:

Define purpose and principles - why

Envision the outcome - what

Brainstorming - the beginning of the how stage where you foresee obstacles and actions

Organizing - put them in a natural order or groups

Identifying - the next action


He says most people do this informally, sometimes in their heads, sometimes on scratch paper, and it mostly works.

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I taught my dds basic outlining in grade 6 with the intention of using it through the middle school years but they returned to school for 2 years. One has returned home again and is outlining "How to Read a Book" this semester. I think by the time she finishes the book she will be pro at outlining : ) I'll let her determine if it is helpful to her. She does like doing it on computer better than she did with paper. My other dd is in PS, she makes what she calls a table of contents for each course, it is basically an outline but with numbers and bullet points. Mind you she only started this after a teacher lost several of her assignments, so her table of contents also includes a notation of assignments and dates they were handed in.

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