An Empty Outline is best used when a great deal of structured content must be presented, such as in a lecture. Varying levels of ability in students allows an empty outline to meet the different needs. An empty outline can help students develop skills of listening, note taking, and organization. All of these skills do require clear and supportive feedback at the same time.
Beginning with a detailed outline lecture or discussion, decide whether students should pay more attention to its topics, subtopics, or supporting details (this might alternate with certain subject matter). Then, prepare a partial outline, omitting the topics, subtopics, or supporting details from it.
After the lecture, ask students to fill in the blanks in the partial outline. Completing the outline demonstrates students’ mastery of the material and shows students how topics, subtopics, or supporting details relate to one other. An empty outline is also a valuable resource in teaching students how to organize notes when outlines are not provided.
It is important to be cautious when choosing what to omit. It is recommended that an empty outline be limited to at most, half of the lecture or discussion. The same outline technique could also be incorporated into a “Book Look” activity when assigning students reading from a text.