Organization Trait

Characteristics of ORGANIZATION Trait

  • Writer demonstrates a sense of sequence.
  • Writer has an ability to organize and group.
  • Writer demonstrates [through his/her writing] a firm sense of a beginning and and end

What to Look & Listen for when working with the ORGANIZATION trait…

  • Pictures and/or text balanced on the page
  • Coordination between text and picture (they go together)
  • Multiple pictures that show sequence
  • Grouping of details, ideas
  • Text that shows sequence: First…then…after…next…later…last
  • Text that shows connections: because…so…when…however…
  • Sense of beginning: One day…Last week…When I was little…
  • Sense of ending: So finally… That’s all… At last…The end
  • Cause and effect structure in text (or picture series)
  • Problem solving structure in text (or picture series)
  • Chronological structure in text (or picture series)
  • Surprises that work
  • Sticking with one main topic or idea

Things you can say or write when trying to reinforce the ORGANIZATION trait…

  • I can see how these ideas/pictures go together.
  • You knew just how to begin (or end).
  • This happened because this happened – that’s a good way to organize ideas.
  • You organized your story by time… first this, then this…
  • I wanted to know what would happen next!
  • What a surprise ending!
  • You solved a problem – that’s a good way to organize ideas.
  • [When reading aloud] This story has the title _________. What do you suppose it’s about?
  • So far this author has told us __________. What do you predict will happen next? How do you predict this will end?
  • Let me read just the beginning of this writer’s story/essay. Is this a good way for the writer to begin? Why?
  • Can you tell me back this story/essay in a few sentences?
  • ORGANIZATION trait related questions the writer can ask him/herself as writing…

  • How did my paper begin?
  • Did I tell things/events in order?
  • What is the most important fact or thing in my paper?
  • How did my paper end?
  • Activities that support the ORGANIZATION trait

    • Writing Leads – Ask students to choose one piece of writing they’re currently working on. Write five different leads for that piece. Then, meet in response groups to share the leads and talk about which are most effective. (Try the same activity with conclusions!)
    • Leads That Work – or Not! – Ask each student to find an example of a good lead—from a book, newspaper article, or whatever. Then, find an example that does NOT work. Make a bulletin board display of both collections. (Again, do the same with conclusions.)
    • Where Does It Go? – Find an article (or story) with fairly clear organization. Reprint it with two of the lines missing. Put those on an overhead or chalkboard. Ask students, working with a partner, to see if they can identify where the missing lines would go.
    • Getting Rid of Rubble – One of the hardest things for student writers to do is to get rid of deadwood—information that does not matter and so does not add anything to the quality of the writing. Begin with a short article, essay, or narrative you think is well done. Then, add some excess baggage—up to three lines or so—at the beginning or end or both. Ask students to be critical content editors, getting rid of anything they think is unneeded. Compare their cuts to the writer’s original. (This is an excellent warm-up to content editing of their own work.
    • End It! – Find any short story or article (poems work, too!) that has a fairly unpredictable ending. Read it aloud.  Then ask students to write an ending for it. Share endings aloud as a class or in smaller response groups to talk about which work best.
    • Easy to Follow? – Ask students to find an example of a recipe or set of directions that is particularly easy to follow. Score it for the trait of organization and write a short critique on its organizational structure.
    • Merry Mix-Up – Take a similar recipe or set of directions (students can actually do this themselves, in groups), cut it apart, and mix the parts up so they’re totally out of order. Have groups trade sets and see which groups can put their sets in order most quickly.
    • Which One Doesn’t Belong? – Take any short passage—a letter or memo, or piece of a story or article will do—and rewrite it, adding one line that does not fit. Slip it somewhere in the middle, so they must read very carefully. See how long it takes students to find the extra line. Too easy? Then next time, add two or three lines. Now, ask students to create the lesson, adding the extra line—then trade with other groups. Immediately following this lesson, ask them to look at their own writing, taking out any excess baggage.
    • Grouping Similar Ideas – Group students and ask each group to choose one topic—for example, hyenas, solar energy, computer monitors, or whatever. Ask students, in groups, to dig up at least 20 different interesting tidbits of information on their topic. Write each tidbit on a 3×5 card. Then, exchange 20-card stacks among groups, so no group has its own notes. Ask students, in groups, to arrange the cards they’ve received from the other group as if they were going to do a research paper on the topic. They should think of the lead and the ending. They should also feel free to get rid of any cards that contain redundant or obvious, too well known information, keeping just the best details. At the end, they should have similar ideas grouped together, a sense of which information will be shared in the lead and conclusion, and an overall sense of the order of the whole piece. Ask three or more groups to describe their process.
    • What Kinds of Organization Are There? – How many ways are there to organize information? Begin a collection of essays, reviews, critiques, stories, directions, descriptions, etc., each with its own kind of organization. You can come up with labels (e.g., comparison-contrast) for the organizational patterns you find, or describe the strategies the writer uses (e.g., begins with a strong conclusion, then defends it with evidence), or both. Try to find at least seven different ways to organize information. As a follow-up, ask students to try at least three of these different ways of structuring information in their own writing.

    Rubrics that support the ORGANIZATION trait

    Literature that supports the ORGANIZATION trait


    Cited in the NNWP’s Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide