The Commentary Wheel
Commentary Wheel ala Mr. Church
In tenth grade English, my teacher gave the class a handout titled "Commentary Wheel". It is basically a pie graph for pre-writing an essay or commentary. He explained that in a poem or short story there is always at least one major theme, tone, purpose, or meaning.
The theme/tone/purpose/meaning a reader gets out of a piece of writing can vary from individual to individual. The important thing is for the person to be able to support the theme/tone/purpose/meaning received. The commentary wheel helps the reader to do just that. The outer sphere is "realm of observation" or the actual things in the work, be it stated setting or the structure or imagery. The inner sphere is "realm of interpretation" or how the setting or imagery (or various other observations) are interpreted by the reader.
I found this wheel to be less confining than some of the more traditional methods of organizing and outlining. It may not work for some but I found it helpful in pulling together my thoughts and observations on other people's writing. It also helped give me structure when I set out to write the essay or commentary. I could use each of the observable realms as supporting paragraph main ideas.