17 February 2015

Day 67 / 104 - ANI in Real Life

I have mentioned before that this year my son is learning how to write a persuasive essay using materials from The Lost Tools of Writing.  One of the key tools in this process is the ANI Chart.  The ANI Chart is an advanced pro/con list that strengthens and guides a student's thinking in order to help the student discover information for his/her essay.  A student begins with a question like Whether Mary should have entered the secret garden. Then the ANI chart, along with a few other tools, helps to guide the student's thinking and moves him/her forward with defined brainstorming activities in order to form a thesis.  On the ANI chart there are three columns: Affirmative, Negative, and Information.  The student lists the reasons Mary should have entered the garden in the A column and lists the reasons she shouldn't have entered the garden in the N column. When an idea might not fit in either column, but does give the student more information, that is placed into the I column.

Two weeks ago, my son and I were faced with a real-life scenario that required a difficult answer, whether it be yes or no.  It was necessary for us to figure out if we should continue, or limit, our involvement with a certain activity due to a recent life change on the horizon.  This was not a simple decision because we have invested quite a bit of time, effort, and resources into this activity.  Either yes or no could have been the right answer, but we needed to discover what would be the best decision for us at this time.

He and I spent several days discussing the activity, its effects, and its outcomes using the ANI Chart.  I wish I had been taught to brainstorm and make decisions this way.  It was a healthy activity for us to visualize the strongest arguments for and against our involvement.  We were able to make a decision based on all the information and move forward.  Plus it strengthened our relationship incredibly.  Looking back, using this process and having these few conversations with my son will remain a highlight of this school year.


  1. LOVE this!!! Thank you -- I'm the mom of a Challenge B student and I'm going to show this post to her!