Table of Contents Structure: Part II

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Last week, I shared how we began thinking of different types of structures for tables of contents. Now that we've figured out ways we could organize them, we have to make a decision!

Each of the ideas we came up with for setting up our tables of contents would give us a very different book. This was something that the students struggled to understand. I tried to help focus their writing by asking “what do you WANT to teach others about your topic?” I think I asked this question 235 times during my conferences. The set up that came the easiest to them ended up being the one they all chose to work with.

Here’s how it works: Students first need to decide what they want their book to focus on. They will use the parts, types, ways, or first to last graphic organizer to come up with a list (see last week's post for more info). They will choose the one that fits their topic the best to create their table of contents.  For example, I’m choosing a first to last structure about the Fujita Scale. That column will become my table of contents. Each of my bullet points will become my headings/chapter titles.

Authors want their table of contents follows a logical sequence. Continuing with my topic of tornadoes, I've organized the table of contents in the order of the Fujita Scale from least to greatest. I've chosen to add a chapter in the beginning explaining what the Fujita Scale is and its history. This will help readers understand the chapters that follow.

To keep readers engaged, authors also want to create chapter titles that align with the main idea of their book. Instead of just listing F0-F5, I chose to give a short phrase describing the damage at each level. Students may also want to set their chapters up as questions, with alliterations, or short descriptions.

The Power of Tornadoes
Chapter 1: Measuring Power - The Fujita Scale
Chapter 2: F0 – Broken Branches
Chapter 3: F1 – Snapped Tree Trunks
Chapter 4: F2 – Roofs Ripped Off
Chapter 5: F3 – Damaged Walls
Chapter 6: F4 – Houses Leveled
Chapter 7: F5 – Everything is Blown Away

The students and I created a table of contents about dogs as a guided practice. We chose the ways structure about taking care of a pet dog. Students wanted to set it up in question form. Another option I thought would be fun is to incorporate alliterative dog names into the chapter titles. 

Devoted Dog Owners
Chapter 1: Should I get a Pet Dog?
Chapter 2: Feeding Fido
Chapter 3: Walking Wally
Chapter 4: Playful Pal
Chapter 5: Cleaning Cooper
Chapter 6: Training Titus
Chapter 6: Obedient Otis

After the guided practice, students worked on their own topic. Once students narrowed their thinking and focused on what they wanted their book to teach readers, this came much more easily to them. We are loving our new tables of contents! 

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