Start with a Skeleton.


I like to use a 'skeleton" analogy to teach assignment technique.

When doing reports or essays we need to first build a skeleton and then add the flesh to it. By this I mean we need to first write the headings and then add the detail to each of those headings.

By thinking about the headings and what order they go in we are setting out the structure of our essay or report. Students can always add or change headings or change their order later but building the skeleton first helps us ensure that we are covering all the requirements of the assignment.

If students simply start writing they can easily be heading in the wrong direction or spending too long on the wrong parts of the assignment.

Headings – Auto-set them up.

The good news is that there is a technique we can use to quickly build the skeleton. This is called “Auto-set.” It is simple; we just draw circles around the key words in the requirements then “move” that key word to become part of one of the headings.

Here is an example:

Here we have used the assignment requirements to develop the headings. The key words from the questions are used to start building the skeleton. Note how question 2 states that there could be "a few different things" said by experts. I have assumed here that we can find 4 different experts to give as examples.

Note how I have also used key words from the general requirements of the assignment to complete the required headings. In particular these general requirements give the clue that we need to talk about 2 sets of koalas; those in the wild and those in captivity. Because this clue is in the general requirements, it covers the whole assignment and so we need to write about this for both questions.

This is a simple example of an assignment question and yet even here you can see how it quickly turns into a lot of points that need to be discussed. This is why we go through the step of building the skeleton first. This technique becomes very important when students are dealing with more complex assignments.