Lesson 2 Notetaking and Graphic Organizers for Writing T

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Lesson 6.2

Notetaking and Graphic Organizers for Writing

The great painters of the Renaissance, such as Michelangelo and da Vinci, used to make careful sketches of their subjects before they started to paint. These sketches are known, technically, as cartoons. In his books on learning to paint, the art instructor Jon Gnagy emphasized the importance of starting out with a good sketch before adding paint.

Just as making a sketch is a useful first step toward creating a painting, so it is useful to sketch out your ideas before you actually begin to write. When writing for standardized reading and writing exams, you will not have time to make full-scale, formal outlines, but you can create quick outlines and organizers, jotting these down on scrap paper and in the margins of your exam booklets. There are many ways to lay out your ideas visually as you begin to organize them. This lesson will present some of the techniques you can use to organize your writing.

Rough Outlines

A rough outline can be a very helpful way to give some structure to your ideas before you begin writing. This form can also be used to take notes from a source. When you make a rough outline, you jot down main ideas followed by supporting details. Recall that a main idea is any important point, and supporting details are facts, examples, and illustrations that demon­strate or elaborate upon the main idea. To create a rough outline for a piece of writing, jot down each of the main points you want to make. Under each main idea, jot down some details that reinforce that point. Each of your main points, with its supporting details, can become a paragraph in your writing.

Look back at question 29 on page 23 of the Pretest. Here is one way to outline an answer to this question:

The Etruscans

Powerful empire
—From Arno River to Tiber River

—Fortified cities united to form govt.

Developed elective form of govt.

—Conquered surrounding peoples

Commercial power
—As significant as Greek and I7hoenician traders

—Reached all ports of Mediterranean

—Finely engineered roads

—built wealth and spread influence to northern Europe and Africa

Well-developed culture
—Strong tradition of craftsmanship

—Advanced painting and sculpture

—Elal2orate necropolises

—Tombs still stand today

—Unusual equality for women

—Strong influence on Roman culture

Comparison/Contrast Charts

A common kind of examination question is one that asks you to compare and contrast two subjects. When you compare two subjects, you point out their similarities. When you contrast two subjects, you point out their differences.


The simplest way to represent compari­son or contrast information graphically is to prepare a chart of similarities or a chart of differences. Suppose you had been reading about the Iroquois Nations and needed to write a paragraph comparing their consti­tution to that of the United States. You might make a list of the similarities, as in the chart below, and then write a paragraph like the one that follows:

—two-house legislature

—elected representatives

—guarantees of certain rights

—confederation of independent states

The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations, created many hundreds of years ago, is similar to the United States Constitution. First, both constitutions call for a two-house legislature. Second, under both constitutions, the legislators are elected representatives of the people. Third, both documents guarantee cer­tain rights, such as the freedom of religion and trial by jury. Fourth, both create a confederation of independent states. In the case of the Iroquois, the states that were joined together were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes. In the case of the early United States, the states were the thirteen original colonies.

A more complex kind of chart lists both similarities and differences. For example, you might want to compare television and the World Wide Web, which have some characteristics in common but which are also different in significant ways. As you think about how they are alike and how they are different, you could make a chart like the one below, which you could then use to compose a paragraph:

Similarities and difference between Television and the world wide web


—Communications media

—Used by millions of people

—Receive text, pictures, sound, and video


—Text clear on Web but fuzzy on television

—Web too slow, at present, for video, but video fine on television

—Television a passive medium; Web an interactive medium

—Web allows long-distance interaction with others; television doesn’t

Television and the World Wide Web are alike in some ways but different in others. They are both communications media, and both are used by millions of people. Another similarity is that both can be used to receive text, pictures, sound, and video. On current tele­visions, however, text tends to be fuzzy and difficult to read, whereas text on computers, received via the World Wide Web, is generally clear and easy to read. While the Web is great for text, it is not yet a good medium for video. Full-length feature movies can easily be received and viewed on a television

Writing 147

screen, but most Internet hookups are too slow, at present, for receiving full-length movies. Yet another difference between television and the World Wide Web is that the former is a passive medium, while the latter is interactive. In most cases, people simply watch on television whatever is broadcast to them. On the World Wide Web, however, people can often interact with what they see on the screen. For example, on the Web, people can play interactive computer games or chat with other people who are far away.

Making a chart of similarities would be a good way to approach question 55 on the Pretest, which asks you to point out the similarities in the experiences of Chief Joseph and Chief Ten Bears. A chart of differences would help you answer question 39, in which you are asked to contrast two characters’ attitudes toward death. Remember that the time available to answer questions on a timed test is limited; you should practice jotting down your ideas with a few key words in such a way that you can clearly see the relationships among your ideas.

Venn Diagrams

Another way to represent comparison and contrast information graphically is to create a Venn diagram. To make a Venn diagram, you draw circles for each of your subjects in such a way that the two circles overlap. Each circle is labeled with the name of one of the subjects. To complete the chart, you list the similarities (the things that the two subjects have in common) in the space where the two circles overlap. Then you list


See diagram on page 148


the differences for each subject in the space specific to that subject. The example on the preceding page shows how the information about television and the World Wide Web might be diagrammed.

Pro-and-Con Charts

Some writing prompts call for persuasive writing. Persuasive writing is writing in which you attempt to convince your readers to adopt some belief or to take some action. Let us revisit our example from Lesson 2,2. Suppose that your school district is considering a proposal to hold school year-round. You might write a letter to the school board or to your local newspaper supporting this idea or opposing it. Your letter would be a piece of persuasive writing.

One way to represent information for persuasive writing is to produce a pro-and-con chart. A pro is simply an argument or reason in favor of some idea. A con is an argument or reason against it. Suppose that you wanted to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of exploring Mars. You could set up a chart like the one below, listing the pros and cons, and then use the items in your list as points in your paragraph:



—Can lead to commercial spinoffs

—Satisfies curiosity

—Prepares way for colonization



—Uses resources that could be allocated to solving other problems

In recent years, a debate has raged in the United States over support of NASA’s Mars exploration program. Some people believe that the program is too costly and that it uses up technical and scientific resources that could better be used to address problems here on Earth, such as pollution and disease. The Mars program offers many benefits, however. First, the research that goes into the program can lead to important commercial spinoffs. For example, the robot rover created to wander about the surface of Mars collecting samples might be adapted to create a robot vacuum cleaner. Second, the Mars program satisfies the human desire to know more about the universe. The Mars exploration program will help us to answer interesting questions, such as whether life ever existed on Mars and, if so, what that life was like. Third, by exploring Mars, we can lay the groundwork for future colonization and mining of the planet, possibilities that could ease overpopulation and deple­tion of resources here on Earth.

You might be asked to read a selection and then take a stand on the issue presented. A pro-and-con chart could help you to evaluate the reasons for and against the idea. Question 14 on the Pretest asks you to write your opinion about whether experimentation with cloning should be encouraged. You could read through the article and jot down the pros and cons in a chart like the one on this page, which would help you organize the arguments for and against cloning. Then you could choose your position and write your paragraph.


Cause-and-Effect Charts

Discussions of causes and effects appear in all kinds of writing. For example, a news­paper report about a hurricane might discuss how it was caused by the collision of a cold front and a warm front and how it affected people and property. You may be called upon to write about causes and effects. To represent cause-and-effect relationships graphically, you can create a cause-and-effect chart. Observing these relationships will give your writing greater clarity.



—Abundant natural resources

—Strong work ethic

—Free market economy

—Universal education


—United States one of the wealthiest countries in the world

What made the United States one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world? This is a complex ques­tion with many answers. One answer is that the country is blessed with an abundance of natural resources—water, lumber, iron, and oil being among the most important. Another is that it was settled by pioneers with a strong work ethic—people who believed that by working hard, they could get ahead, prosper, and make better lives for them­selves and their families. Yet another answer is the free market economy of the United States, which encourages competition and invention.

Question 55 on the Posttest asks you to show how two men have made an impact on the world. A cause-and-effect chart could help you to see the effects of their actions on the world.

Sensory Detail Charts

Descriptive writing is writing that presents a portrait of a subject in words. One way to represent information given in descriptive writing is to prepare a sensory detail chart. Such a chart uses a list of the five senses as headings. Under each heading, you list particular details that you perceive with each of your senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. If you spent a day at the beach, you might make a chart like the one below to record stimuli received by each of your senses. You could then develop your chart into a paragraph like the one that follows:



—Hundreds of people

—White sand, green sea, blue sky

—Colorful beach towels and umbrellas


—Seagulls cawing

—Waves lapping

—Children laughing

—Radios playing top forty hits


—Warm rays of the sun Smell

—Hot dogs and suntan oil


—Hot dogs

I 50

On the last day of the season, hundreds of people crowded the beach. On the horizon, the emerald sea blended into the blue sky. The warm rays of the sun shone upon a second sea of colorful beach towels and umbrellas. Sea gulls cawed overhead, and the waves gently lapped the shore. The air was filled with the sounds of children laughing and splashing in the surf and radios playing top forty hits. Wafting over the crowd was the smell of hot dogs and suntan oil.

Question 13 on the Posttest asks you to imagine that you are present at the eruption of a volcano and to write an account of what you see and how you feel. Making a sensory detail chart could help you to engage all of your senses and write a vivid description.

Analysis Charts

To write an analysis of a subject, you will find it useful to create an analysis chart, which lists the parts of the subject in one column and descriptions of those parts in the other column. Here are two paragraphs based on information from an analysis chart for John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

At the beginning of this century, the wealthiest person in America was John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Rockefeller built and controlled the Standard Oil Company. At one point, his income amounted to what, in today’s dollars, would be a billion dollars a year. A tall, extremely thin, well-dressed man, often to be seen sporting a top hat and tails or fancy golfing attire, he was known for his very conservative political and religious views. A disease called alopecia had caused him to lose all of his facial hair, giving him a somewhat elflike appearance.

In his personal life, Rockefeller was frugal to the point of miserliness. He avoided cards and theater, shunning them as vices, and preferred home life to socializing with other wealthy people. Although he could be a stern businessman, merciless to his com­petitors, Rockefeller became one of the largest donors to charity in all of history.

Character Analysis” Rockefeller

Appearance: Tall,


No facial hair,


Dress Well-dressed,

Top hat,


Golfing attire

Occupation Founder,

Standard Oil,

Became world’s wealthiest man,

Became world’s Foremost philanthropist

Interests Family,





Habits/Personality Frugal,


Avoided cards,


Stern in business but charitable

Question 44 on the Posttest asks you to tell about the nature of one of the characters in a story. In this case, the character is an animal. As you read the story, you might use a chart like the one above to jot down the character’s actions and statements made about him that reveal what he is like.


Word Webs, or Cluster Charts

An excellent graphic organizer for exploring ideas before you commit them to paper is the word web, or cluster chart. To create such a chart, you write the main subject in the middle of a piece of paper and circle it. Then, outside the circle, you write related main ideas and circle these. Then, next to each idea, you write related specific details and circle those. You can indicate a connection between any two ideas by drawing a line. Have a look at the word web below. A paragraph based on this word web follows.

See diagram on page 1523

A freshman at a university would do well to take a wide variety of course-work, sampling all that the university has to offer before deciding upon an area in which to major. Most universi­ties offer courses in three broad areas— the sciences, the humanities, and the professions. The sciences include physics, chemistry, computer science, astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. The humanities include English, languages, fine arts, theater, philosophy, and music. The profes­sions, often represented by separate schools within the university, include business, journalism, medicine, and law.



1. Choose one of the open-response questions from the Pretest on pages 2—40. Review the selection on which the question is based. Then, write a brief rough outline for an acceptable written response to the question.

2. Choose two similar commercial products that would be interesting to other high-school students. Possibilities include the following:
—Two brands of running shoes

—Two personal computers

—Two computer games

—Two new music CDs

Do some research on these products by visiting stores or by checking out the products at company sites on the World Wide Web. Create a Venn diagram showing the products’ similarities and differences.

3. Based on the information in the chart that you created for Exercise 2, write a product review. In your review, compare and contrast the two products. Then state which product you would recommend to your friends.

4. Choose a career in which you are interested and do some research on it in the library or on the World Wide Web. A good source of information on careers is The Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is updated yearly by the U.S. Department of Labor. Most libraries have recent copies of this handbook, and it is available online at http ://www.bls.gov/ocohome.htm. Prepare a chart of the pros and cons for a person entering the career that you chose.

5. Find a copy of a national or big-city daily newspaper, such as USA Today, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, or the New York Times. Study the articles in a single edition of the paper. Find at least five examples of cause-and-effect relationships described in the paper. Choose two of these and create cause-and-effect charts describing the relationships.

6. Create a sensory detail chart to describe one of the following scenes:

—A carnival

—An ape house in a zoo

—A museum

—A school cafeteria at lunchtime

—A skateboarding park

—A concert

—A football, baseball, basketball, or soccer game

—An amusement park

.7 Write a descriptive paragraph based on the information in the chart you created for Exercise 6.

8 Create a word web for an essay about extracurricular activities at your school. Try to fill an entire page with information that might be used to develop the essay. Follow the model word web given on the preceding page.


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