How to Teach Organizational Techniques for Writing

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Organizing a piece of writing is one of the most challenging aspects of becoming an independent writer. This lesson will help you learn how to teach the organization of writing.

Why Teach Organization?

Mrs. Jackson's fourth grade students are creative and sometimes even prolific writers. Using the workshop model, in which they write regularly in a notebook, respond to teacher-led mini-lessons, and reflect on their work, they are able to generate ideas and produce interesting pieces. Mrs. Jackson believes in the writing process; her students generate ideas, plan their writing, draft, revise, and edit before publishing their work. However, Mrs. Jackson has noticed that her students tend to rush through the planning stage. Eager to get started, they jot a few things down and then move straight to drafting. This then gets reflected in their writing because their work shows poor organization. It can be confusing to follow their pieces, and they do not adhere to the conventions of particular genres. Mrs. Jackson realizes that it is important to directly teach her student strategies for organization of writing.

Mentor Texts

Mrs. Jackson finds that one of the best ways to help her students figure out organization is by thoughtful use of mentor texts. Mentor texts are published works or solid pieces of writing by previous students (shared with permission or anonymously) that reflect successful and compelling examples of the genre and techniques students are working with. Prior to drafting their own pieces, Mrs. Jackson begins requiring her students to analyze at least three mentor texts from the relevant genre. She gives them worksheets to respond to as they get to know mentor texts. After reading a mentor text, Mrs. Jackson has her students respond to the following questions:

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