Threading Together an Outline

I love the planning part of teaching, taking ideas, and seeing what they might become. It’s one of my favorite things about writing for Moving Writers, because it gives me another outlet for putting those ideas to use.

As a planner, I’m constantly noting things that intrigue or interest me, filing them away for future use. Sometimes, I forget about them until I stumble upon them again. Other times, the idea nags at me, worming its way into a fully realized idea.

This is one of those things.


via Wired

As a Twitter user, I read a lot of threads. I’ve thought a lot about the thread, about the use of a microblogging platform to write longer pieces. There was a time that many Twitter users railed against the proliferation of threads, stressing that the purpose of Twitter was the brevity of expression, containing an idea within the (original) 140 character limit.


Personally, there was something I always liked about threads. I liked seeing the thoughts unfold. My TeacherBrain knew there was a way to use threads as a teaching tool, but I couldn’t quite crack it.

Earlier this week, as I was wondering what this week’s column would focus on, I hit Twitter. I came across this thread, posted by Phoenix Calida, tweeting as @uppitynegress:


Slide2Slide3A classroom use for threads became so obvious to me. Aside from being an interesting piece of reading that might be interesting to have students look at, it actually works a good model for outlining an essay.

If you look at the structure of the thread, it actually follows the essay model that many of our students utilise. It begins with an introduction, stating a thesis. That thesis is argued by sharing evidence that supports it. There is a conclusion.

However, I feel as if it serves as an outline, more so than a “mini-essay.” The arguments, while valid, are not expanded upon, and are simply listed. Part of this is an assumption that the audience gets the references. It is also a concession to the platform being used. Tweets are short, and when well written, often contain a single idea, much like an outline item would.

What I like about this as the model for an essay is that it’s a bit more fully realized than the point form notes that make up many outlines. That makes it readable. Obviously, that’s why it works as a thread. Colida thought out her arguments, and wrote them in an organized fashion. Much like we’d expect our writers to do.

An interesting experiment might be to give students a thread like this, and have them do the research and writing to expand this into an essay.

Really though, what reading this thread made clear to me is that this is a model for outlining an essay that is relevant and interesting. It is not a graphic organizer and acronyms. It is simply, using Twitter as a platform, laying out the arguments you’re going to make, and giving the writer the bones of their essay in a readable fashion, one they can look at and see the piece working, or not.

The beauty of this lies in the fact that Twitter is an endless source of threads. Any kind of essay we might be having our students write, there is no doubt a thread for that. Pretty cool, huh?

How do you get your writers to outline? What threads would you use as mentor texts for your writers? How else can we utilise Twitter threads in our classrooms?

Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @doodlinmunkyboy!


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