What are Writing Plans and Blocks?
Emily Donnelly avatar
Written by Emily Donnelly
Updated over a week ago

What are Blocks?

Blocks are writing spaces that help your writers to organize their ideas. Students will add blocks as they write, or you can add Blocks while customizing an assignment in the Student Preview.

Each Writing Plan has its own set of Blocks. If a writing plan is not chosen, Pressto’s full library of Blocks will appear for students to use.

How do Blocks Work?

Students drag and drop Blocks into the document, then write in the Blocks. See tips for adding, changing or deleting Blocks here.

What Are Writing Plans?

Writing Plans are plans students can use to organize their writing, grounded in text structures. When a teacher or students select a writing plan, they are also given Blocks and Signal Words associated with the plan.

Pressto's Approach to Structuring Writing with Writing Plans and Blocks

Pressto’s use of “Blocks” as a structure for organizing and guiding writing is grounded in three major research findings:

  1. Good writing conforms to a few well-defined text structures. For narrative text, there is one, largely universal, text structure. It includes a setting (which may include characters as well as place), problem or goal, attempts to solve the problem or achieve the goal, resolution, and consequence. For expository or informational texts, there are 5 common text structures. These include description, problem/solution, comparison/contrast, sequence or chronological order, and cause/effect.

  2. When writers plan and organize their writing using one of these structures, they are likely to compose text that is easily understood and “considerate”--that is, easily comprehended by their readers.

  3. Graphic organizers provide a visual representation of the ways texts are structured. When students use graphic organizers to identify and take notes during or after reading, their comprehension improves significantly. In turn, when writers use graphic organizers to gather information and plan for writing, organization and structure of their writing improves significantly. View and download Pressto's Graphic Organizers for each writing plan here.

Pressto builds on these research findings in two ways:

  • At the outset, it guides readers to choose a writing plan that will best “match” their writing purpose. For example, students learn that:

    • Description is useful when a writer’s purpose is to describe and explain an idea or an event.

    • Sequence or chronological order is useful when a writer’s purpose is to outline steps in a process or events that occur (or must occur) in a specific order.

    • Cause/Effect is useful when a writer’s purpose is to explain the relationship between actions or events and subsequent outcomes.

    • Comparison/Contrast is useful when a writer’s purpose is to help readers understand how ideas or items are similar and different.

    • Problem/Solution is useful when a writer’s purpose is to help readers understand ways to solve a problem.

  • Next, it uses Blocks to help readers align their writing with the selected writing plan. For example, if they choose Cause/Effect as a writing plan, they are offered a series of Blocks to “fill” as they compose their piece. Mindful that writing guidance should be structured but not formulaic, the use of Blocks is intentionally flexible, allowing writers to delete or add Blocks of each type as they choose. So, for example, writers might choose to name or describe a cause, and then present multiple effects by adding and fill in any number of Effect Blocks they might need. They also can delete any Blocks they choose not to use.

Similarly, as they write, they may decide that their chosen writing plan is not working quite as well as they had anticipated. In that case, they can easily select an alternate writing plan. If they do so, information they have already written will stay in the document. Students will be able to change the Block title to better match their new plan, or cut and paste their writing to reorganize their information.

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