I added a new, down-loadable "freebie" to help students with their writing projects.  The "Planning Form" can be accessed under the "Free Stuff" button.

Many students like the structure the form provides.  It helps them organize their thoughts and gives direction for the writing process.  The first thing the form requests is a working title.  A working title can help a student focus on what his essay is about and avoid running off in tangents.  One difficulty writers face is choosing a sufficiently narrow subject for their topic; stating a working title helps overcome that.  The Planning Form also helps with self-editing by providing a check list of things to watch for.

Some students find the Planning Form useful, but not all.  A talented writer may not need this tool, but if you are teaching a reluctant student who has trouble getting started and produces sub-par work, the form can help improve his organizational skills and provide a framework for self-editing.

Even more success is achieved when both student and teacher follow the Planning Form.  It puts them on the same page, so to speak.  The student knows specifically what the teacher is looking for, and the teacher has a basis for grading the student's work.

 I've been employing this tool in writing classes for years.  Occasionally students balk at using it, but until their skills improve I usually insist.  Let me know how it works for you.