Screenshot of an online graphic organizer essay map from ReadWriteThink.Essay Map” is an interactive, online graphic organizer to help your students write an essay.

In terms of writing organization, it’s nothing ground breaking. It’s a traditional essay map, converted into a simple interactive applet around which students can navigate and on which students can record information. You don’t need to register to use the app, and you can save your work by downloading a file.

One of the first things I try to do every year is teach my kids how to structure and organize a simple five paragraph essay. Many of my students, entering high school, have a lot of trouble with getting crisp, clear paragraphs and with developing their points. I often have my kids develop essay maps similar to these on paper. I think I might try this out later in the year instead.

I like the way students can navigate around this map, building it one piece at a time. For example, if they wanted, they could do all their main ideas, then all their supporting details. Or they could alternate, doing one main idea at a time and filling in the supporting details. The little navigational map makes it easy for students to jump around from one point of the diagram to the other.

When you’re all done, you can then print the final copy, save it as a PDF, or e-mail the PDF.

All in all, a nice, simple app. Nothing special, but simple and effective. That being said, a few things would make these even better. Here’s what I’d like to see, and what’d I’d do if I could redesign this app:

1. Google Docs integration. Files are so old school. Who saves a file on a computer anymore…? Sure, you can download the file and then upload it to Google Docs, but that’s kind of clunky. I would love this if it were integrated into Google Docs, so that students could save the working file and the PDF file into Google docs. Likewise, they should be able to open files from Google Docs.

2. Ability to re-arrange and move things. A couple months ago, I was working on a tool to let kids build an essay by dragging and dropping information in a template. I think that kind of functionality, combined with the input and structure of this type of essay map, could be really powerful. For example, swap the order of your three main ideas. Drag a supporting detail from one topic to another. Re-order the details that you listed within a specific idea. Copying and pasting works, but (like saving files and uploading them) it’s just clunky.

Go take a look at this online graphic organizer yourself, and then let me know what you think in the comments below.