A Hands-on Learning Approach for Teaching and Assessing Writing Organization

How to teach and assess writing organization with a hands-on approach. This is an ideal writing lesson for middle school and high school English students.

As educators, we must always remain cognizant of the fact that students do not all learn the same way. Different strategies and different instructional practices reach students differently. I feel that this is especially true when working with EL students and students with special needs. That is why I try to incorporate as many different strategies as possible, and this one is one really gets the students working together and using their higher level thinking skills.

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I recently had my journalism students complete this activity in class, but it works for all subjects.

The first thing you do if find text you want to work with. It can be non-fiction or fiction. It doesn’t really matter. This strategy works with any text as long as it has some form of logical origination. Then, you cut the text into strips and mix up the strips. Finally, you place the strips of mixed up text in an envelope.

Since I did this activity with my journalism students, I used two news stories and challenged my students to not only separate the two different stories from one another, but also to reconstruct the stories and put them in order.

I had my students work together in groups of four, and completing this task took some time. The conversation generated from this activity was astonishing. They were telling each other why they thought one section of text needed to preceded another.

Once they thought they were finished, they would call me over to their group to see if they were correct. None of the groups got it right the first time. When there were errors in the organization, I simply pulled aside the text that was incorrectly placed. Soon enough, all of the groups were able to work together to piece together the news stories in the correct order.

I really like this strategy because it requires the students to work together, and it also challenges them in a fun and engaging way. They almost don’t even realize that they are learning because they are so focused on “getting it right.”

And of course, you can always make this more exciting by turning it into a competition.

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  • I like you idea about using two articles on the same subject and asking students to piece it back together. I had an idea similar to yours but I used a common fairy tale and asked students to piece it back together last semester. I will definitely use your mode some other day

    • Jennifer,
      I love your idea about using a common fairy tale! I think that's a great way to scaffold this skill since many of the students will already be familiar with the fairy tale.

  • Do you have one of your products you would particularly recommend for teaching the skill of organizing writing? We homeschool, so we're generally working individually rather than in a group, and I have one (9th grade) who LOVES to write — fiction — but is not a very linear thinker and is really struggling to understand how to get an essay or research paper solidly organized. I'd be happy to buy anything you have targeting that skill!

  • I know it's an old post, but what a great idea! I'll use it for my ESL class. THANK YOU!


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