Piece of Pizza
In order to focus the students writing, I drew a inverted triangle separated into three parts. I compared it to a piece of pizza. Most of the students writing topics were very broad and needed to be focused to a more specific topic. Their broad topic is listed in the first section at the top of the triangle ("the crust"). Then, they continue to narrow down the topic as the piece of pizza gets more narrow. They choose something more specific from their crust topic and add it as the "sauce." Finally, they choose something more specific from their "sauce" to make their "cheese." Usually this was enough steps for them to narrow their topic.
In first grade, one of their main writing goals for the students by the end of the year was to write a story with a strong beginning, middle, and end. We put together "hamburgers" to help them visualize this concept. They wrote their beginning on the top bun, their middle on lettuce, cheese, tomatoes or the burger, and their ending on the bottom bun.