As students write more sentences, elaborate on ideas, and develop their reasoning, their work with the trait of ideas tends to improve. However, the organization of the piece often runs awry.

As each new detail, fact, idea, or example pops into their heads, they jot them down… often in the order they thought of them. Students may have many sentences explaining a particular facet of the topic, but they are sprinkled among other facets.

At this point, the writer’s focus needs to shift to the trait of organization. When first describing what organized writing is like, Brussels, Wisconsin primary teacher Jessica Meacham suggests comparing it to the layout of a grocery store. Describe how a shopper progresses from one area/aisle to the next. Imagine he picks up an item in aisle 4, finds something better in aisle 7, and then leaves the aisle-4 item in aisle 7. At the end of the day, lots of items are misplaced, and the store employees need to put things back in order. Describe this process as “rounding up” items and putting them back in their correct areas within the store (e.g., produce, bakery, canned/boxed food, frozen food, etc.).

Compare this to how writers work. In the first draft, students are initially focused on getting the ideas down. They explain something in a sentence or two that causes them to think of something else to say. After a while they might get a little stuck, so they reread. This causes them to remember a few more things to add to what they wrote earlier. Writers are like grocery-store shoppers. They attempt to say things in order, but occasionally they jump around creating disorganization.

In order to achieve the proper organization, writers rely on revision. They reread in order to “round up” similar ideas and put them all together. Use a previous writing (e.g., zoo field trip) to model how to do this.

  • Before reading the piece, assign a different highlighter color to each facet of the topic (e.g., reptiles area = green, penguin cove = blue, the petting zoo = yellow, etc.).
  • Explain that all the details on the same topic (of the same color) should be grouped together.
  • Read and highlight every sentence according to the subtopic/facet it represents.
  • Discuss how the colors within this first draft are not grouped together. Conclude that the ideas are not organized.
  • Model how to then rewrite the piece putting similar ideas (same-colored sentences) together.
  • TECH TIP: For those who are 1 student: 1 device, execute this same strategy by changing the color of the font or highlighter tool within the digital text.
Round up similar ideas for organized writing
Round up similar ideas for organized writing

The visual nature of the colored/highlighted sentences makes it easy for students to assess what ideas need to be “rounded up.” This is easily accomplished when the teacher provides the subtopics and assigs them a particular color. However, the challenge will be showing students how to identify the possible categories of information for themselves.

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