Finding creative, dare I say innovative ways to do the same task in a different way can transform student writing. We as teachers have always taught students to use some kind of organizer to start the writing process. But is writing even a process anymore, but a mere brainstorm draft and a series of revisions that can go on ans on. There is always some tweek, change, update that can be made when it comes to writing. There is a final draft because there is probably a deadline for the writing. But writing can be always looked at different and changed and retold. Sir Ken Robinson has spoken about a book he needed to make some edits to for a new update of the book and he ended up rewriting the whole book not just parts.

In my district we use Thinking Maps to help students organize and think through their writing. We have charts, paper sheets and posters to teach with and for students to practice with. Nothing against this process, but how does this show the overall process. We do the brainstorming and then ends in a final draft. We always just see the final product. That is what we have required. How about incorporating the brainstorming into the the final draft? Sharing the thought cycle in a way that allows the reader in on the writer’s process. This allows the reader to see how the writing was created, developed and then synthesized.

Using Google Drawing in Google Docs allows this to happen. I teach fourth graders and we use the maps to think out the thoughts, sequencing, relationships and others. These maps can be recreated in Google Drawing and then inserted into the writing in the students’ Google document.

Below is the beginning stages of a narrative in a sequential map with details. This is being used to write a categorical narrative of a field trip to San Diego we went on.


This can be taken into a Google document with other maps made in Google Drawing. Allowing the writing to tell more than just the written story. There are visual thinking maps that show another side.

As shown, students created these maps and are using them in the midst of the writing draft.

Circle Map

They do this while in their Google Document. Google Drawing is inserted seamlessly. Simply going to “Insert” in the tools bar and then selecting Drawing. You can then create or import the drawing into the document.


At the end of the day, however you require your students to write, this can be a good tool to incorporate into writing whether it be before the organized writing or during it. Having the thoughts of your students in front of you while you read their writing can be a powerful insight into each individual students thought pattern. You might not do this for every piece of writing, but a times it allows us see into the thinking behind the creation. We don’t read stories or newspaper articles with the authors brainstorming incorporated, but as a teacher and guiding your students in writing, this can be another portal to understanding our students, the way they think, organize and create.


So try it with your students. It helped me follow them through their process and gave me insight to further help them along that process at a deeper level. It allowed me to see what they felt was relevant and important in what they were communicating. You get to see the unused, the ideas that didn’t make the cut, the ones that seemed important at the time, and now don’t have a place in the masterpiece created. You get to then have those conversations of why this idea or detail made it into the writing versus another. It allows you to start a conversation to assess your student in a way a rubric cannot.