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Writing Traits: Teaching the Skills of Organization
teacher-created resources and lessons...all focused on skills that make up the organization trait

A modest request from WritingFix: If you appreciate the resources at this website, consider saying "thank you" to the Northern Nevada Writing Project--sponsors of WritingFix--by visiting their Publication Page and ordering any of their wonderful print guides, like their 196-page resource, the Going Deep with 6 Trait Language print guide (pictured at right). Some of the Going Deep with 6 Trait Language guide's resources can be freely accessed below on this page, but the guide features many, many more trait-friendly ideas, lessons, and resources that can only be found in the printed version. All proceeds from guide sales help this website grow.

Each year, the NNWP offers inservice courses designed to help teachers make new and exciting connections with the six traits of writing. The goal of these professional development experiences is to help educators see the value of using traits as their classroom language during writing instruction. When both teachers and students "own" the language of traits enough to discuss them throughout the writing process, writing improves dramatically, and learners can "go deep" as they discover their personal strengths and struggles that come with the process of writing.

Organization is just one of the six writing traits. In Nevada, it is one of the four traits that is assessed on the fifth grade state writing test. Organization is a complex trait that should be discussed, explored, and further developed every year that students learn to write in school; both kindergartners and high school seniors can be taught to think about developmentally appropriate skills that are associated with organization. This page contains organization lessons and resources that we consider appropriate for sharing with third graders and up. If you are working with primary writers and the six traits, be sure to visit WritingFix's 6 Traits and Primary Writing Homepage.

Organization Topics and Sub-Skills Explored on this Page

Lessons & Resources:
Writing Frames

WritingFix's 6-Trait Poster Set
WritingFix's Organization Post-Its

A Free Poster Resource for your Classroom
Organization is represented by the color blue on our poster set.

Organization is the structure of writing. Just as a house has an entrance, an exit, hallways that connect, and a sensible layout, so too does a piece of good writing. Blueprints are drawn before a house is built; writing should be “blue-printed” too!

  • Click here to open and print WritingFix's seven-page poster set, inspired by the "Building a House" metaphor created by NNWP consultants Dena Harrison, Corbett Harrison, Mary Dunton, Nancy Thomas, and Vivian Olds.

WritingFix offers a free template of Organization Post-It sized notes. These can either be printed on blue colored paper and cut out and stapled to students' drafts, or you can--if you dare--attempt to print them on real 3 x 3 Post-It Notes.

  • Click here to open/print a sheet of six organization revision post-its.
  • Click here to visit WritingFix's Post-It homepage, where you can find instruction on printing our post-its on actual Post-It notes.

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Building a 6-Trait Mentor Text library for your classroom or your school's library?
"Mentor Text" Suggestions for the Trait of Organization
(Click here to access WritingFix's entire bibliography of cited picture books and chapter books.)

Organization "mentor texts" that are focused on during the NNWP's annual
6-Trait Inservice Classes for Teachers:
(Visit our 6-Trait Homepage to learn more about our inservice class.)

Each year, the NNWP sponsors a variety of inservice classes and workshops that focus on helping teachers make 6 traits the language of their classrooms during writing instruction. A variety of presenters share K-12 classroom ideas with each workshop's audience, and--as teachers are wont to do--the participants madly write down the names of mentor texts shared by the presenters.

Here is a mentor text shared by our presenters that our participants are always happy they have written down the title for:

Shared during our Expository Writing Inservice Class for Teachers, this book celebrates teaching expository writing through exploration of structure, not formula.

Check out Reviving The Essay at Amazon.com.

Have a favorite book not mentioned on this page for teaching organization? Send us the title at webmaster@writingfix.com.

Organization "mentor texts" cited in the NNWP's
Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide:
(Click here to learn how to order this amazing resource from the NNWP.)

For more mentor text suggestions for organization, be sure to check out the posted lessons below!

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Organization Sub-Skill #1: Writing Strong Introductions, Hooks, & Leads
Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on just one of organization's sub-skills: high-quality leads, hooks, and introductions. A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.
Two Picture Book-Inspired Introduction/Lead Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Two Chapter Book-Inspired Introduction/Lead Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Chapter Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)

Lesson title:
Pros, Cons, and Hooks

inspired by
How I Became a Pirate
by Melinda Long

Lesson title:
Powerful First Paragraphs

inspired by
Brave Margaret
by Robert De San Souci

Lesson title:
Beyond Once Upon a Time...

inspired by
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
by Avi

 

Lesson title:
Leads for Embarrassing Moments

inspired by
The Watsons Go to Birmingham...1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis


Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Introduction/Lead Prompts for the Right Side of the Brain
(Visit WritingFix's entire Right-Brained Prompt Collection)
From the NNWP's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide
(Learn about all the NNWP Publications by clicking here.)

Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Teaching Strong Introductions & Leads
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)

Christian Hague, a New Hampshire teacher and trainer, shared this idea with us. We sent him the NNWP's Secondary Writing Guide as our thanks for his being so willing to give back to our site. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com.

"I adapted an idea for creating great leads after watching Barry Lane [author of Reviser's Toolbox and After THE END] present at our school. I had my kids think of a true story where they had been embarrassed or frightened. Working in small groups of four, each student orally summarized his/her story to the group, using five sentences or less. At the end of each summary, the listeners all wrote down one question they still had about the story. I encouraged their questions to be about missing details, and I told them they couldn't ask yes/no questions.

"When the whole group had told their stories and everyone had written a question for each summarizer, the questions were passed to the person whose story the question related to. The students had to pretend the questions had been asked of them before they started telling the story, and they had to use their answer to each question's answer as a possible lead.

"If a listener wrote down the question, for example, 'Who was in the house with you?' a lead for their story might become, 'I was completely alone in the house that night'--which makes a great lead!

"This questions-to-leads idea is one of the best I've ever used for inspiring my students to craft introductions that hook the reader."

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Organization Sub-Skill #2: Frames for Organized Writing--balancing creativity with formula
Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on one type of tool that helps students understand organization better: writing frames--both creative and formulaic . A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.


Two Picture Book Lessons with Framed Graphic Organizers
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Chapter Book Lessons with Framed Graphic Organizers
(Check out WritingFix's entire Chapter Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)

Lesson title:
Three-Meal Weather

inspired by
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
by Judi and Ron Barrett

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a frame for a three-part story.

Lesson title:
Weird Animal Adventures

inspired by
Tuesday
by David Wiesner

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a frame for a three-part story.

Lesson title:
Counting Up/Down Stories

inspired by
Wringer
by Jerry Spinelli

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a frame for a creative story.

 

Lesson title:
Short Adventure Stories

inspired by
The Choose Your Own Adventure Books
by R. A. Montgomery

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a frame for a three-part story.


Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Five Popular Frames found in the NNWP's Print Guides
(Learn about all the NNWP Publications by clicking here.)

Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Teaching Structure
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)

Glenda Robertson, an Oklahoma teacher, shared this creative essay "frame" with us. We sent her the NNWP's Secondary Writing Guide as our thanks for her being so willing to give back to our site. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com.

"Dear Corbett and WritingFix,

"I have a terrific idea that I used in teaching organization for Six Plus One Traits.

"One of the most effective ideas is a tool to teach students organization for essays.  Their assignment was to take an old short sleeve t-shirt that they could write/draw on and show how it was a metaphor for an essay.   The collar of their shirts became the 'controlling idea' or thesis.  One sleeve became the 'introduction' and the other sleeve was the 'conclusion.'  The body of the t-shirt became the body of the essay.  On the backsides of their shirts, they were to create another metaphor for the Six + One Traits of Good Writing and the Writing Process.  The t-shirts with the top scores were ones that were more than just attractive - - they were  'thought-full' t-shirts, shirts having  strong content.  My high school sophomores can and do come up with very creative t-shirts!"


Celebrate a Creative Frame for Story-Telling!
a very popular WritingFix lesson by Dena Harrison, Nevada teacher
Celebrate a Creative Frame for Story-Telling!
shared with us by Georgia teacher, Kim Schoonover

Lesson: The Sibling Report

Inspired by: tub-boo-boo by Margie Palatini.

Overview: This charming picture book tells a very funny story using two wonderful frames that can be easily impersonated by your students. First, the story is "book-ended" by the voice of the narrator, a young girl standing on her front lawn, pretending to be a reporter with a live camera crew, alerting us a humorous accident going on inside the house. Second, the story she reports on follows a bad-situation-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better frame. Each person who tries to help the little brother get his toe unstuck from the bathtub faucet ends up getting stuck too.

In this lesson, students are asked to adopt the organization of the book as they tell a funny story (true or not) about an accident that happened with a sibling or relative at their homes.

"I stumbled upon Dogku, by Andrew Clements, at a Scholastic Book Fair yesterday!  Our family loves Andrew Clements' novels, and my daughter is the one who spotted this little picture book among all of the other brightly colored eye-candy.  As soon as I read the first page, I realized that it is a story written entirely in haiku!  Brilliant! 

"I immediately began to develop a lesson in my head using this as a mentor text.  I can't wait to try it out!  Even for the most reluctant writers, a haiku seems 'doable'-- only 17 syllables!  

"If you get a chance to check out this book, don't miss the author's note in the back.  Priceless"

**We sent Kim a complimentary copy of the NNWP's Secondary Writing Guide for sharing this book and idea with us!

Two Poster Frames Found in the Classroom of Amy Hybarger, Northern Nevada Middle School Teacher

Whenever we visit the classroom of Northern Nevada middle school teacher, Amy Maniscalco, we always see a different frame posted on the wall that she is currently asking her students to work with. Above is her "Important Book Frame," which she uses as a classroom exit ticket frame and for classroom book-writing projects. At right, you will see her five-fingered narrative frame, which she uses when she is teaching her students that particular genre.

Amy, a differentiated instruction instructor, knows the value of using both formulaic and creative frames when teaching her students.

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Organization Sub-Skill #3: Pacing & Sequencing

Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on two closely-related organization sub-skills: pre-planning for pacing and sequencing in a piece of writing. A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.


Two Picture Book-Inspired Pacing/Sequencing Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Two Chapter Book-Inspired Pacing/Sequencing Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Chapter Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)

Lesson title:
Floating Down a River

inspired by
Daisy Comes Home
by Jan Brett

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a place for students to plan their stories' sequencing and pacing.

Lesson title:
A Scientific Mis-hap

inspired by
Dogzilla
by Dav Pilkey

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a place for students to plan their stories' sequencing and pacing.

Lesson title:
Adventurous Magic

inspired by
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
by Bruce Coville

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a place for students to plan their stories' sequencing and pacing.

 

Lesson title:
A Magical Animal Encounter

inspired by
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J. K. Rowling

This lessons's graphic organizer provides a place for students to plan their stories' sequencing and pacing.


Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Sequenced Writing Tasks for the Right Side of the Brain
(Visit WritingFix's entire Right-Brained Prompt Collection)
From our iPods Across the Curriculum Project
(Learn about this NNWP Project by clicking here.)

**Be sure to print out the plot graphic organizer that can be found at both these prompts. It will help your students think about the sequence while planning an organized story!

One of the poetry lessons we featured during our iPods Across the Curriculum workshop required students to plan and pace a poem with three equal parts.

Our Quest Item Poetry Lesson is an interesting example of learning about pacing during a poetry lesson. Be sure to check out the lesson's multiple student samples!


Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Adding Foreshadowing to a Story's Sequence
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)

Connie Mackechnie, an Indiana teacher, shared this idea with us. We sent her the NNWP's Reading in the Content Areas Guide as our thanks for her being so willing to give back to our site. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com.

"Dear Corbett & WritingFix,

"You inspired me during your NCTE Presentation (San Antonio, 2008) to e-mail an idea to the WritingFix website. I hope more teachers follow suit.

"Since you already have a lesson (a superb lesson, by the way!) based on Jan Brett's Daisy Comes Home (lesson link), I'll talk about my other favorite Jan Brett book-- The Mitten. I am way into visual organization, which probably explains my adoration of Jan Brett's books. Her illustrations' borders have visual hints about what will be coming up on the next page, and I've always thought this was just brilliant. It's foreshadowing done visually, and I use The Mitten to teach them about this organization skill.

"After I use the book to demonstrate the definition of foreshadowing, we start looking for it in written form. I challenge my students to look for foreshadowing in movies they love, and I challenge them to try using it in their own writing"

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Organization Sub-Skill #4: Using of Thoughtful, Interesting Transitions
Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on one of organization's sub-skills: transitions. A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.


Two Picture Book-Inspired Transition Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
A Chapter Book-Inspired Transition Lesson
(Check out WritingFix's entire Chapter Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)

Lesson title:
Overcoming a Personified Fear

inspired by
There's a Nightmare in my Closet
by Mercer Mayer

Lesson title:
Vocabulary Fashion Shows

inspired by
Miss Alaineus
by Debra Frasier

At present, we only have one chapter book lesson that focuses on students developing better transition skills. We want another!

If you want to become a part of the WritingFix family of teachers by having an original lesson in our collection, consider using our template and creating a new lesson we can post here!

If we accept your lesson and post it here, we will send you any two of the NNWP's Print Publications as our thanks. E-mail lessons and inquiries to webmaster@writingfix.com

 

Lesson title:
Moving through the Machine

inspired by
Homer Price
by Robert McCloskey


Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Sequenced Writing Tasks for the Right Side of the Brain
(Visit WritingFix's entire Right-Brained Prompt Collection)
From the NNWP's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide
(Learn about all the NNWP Publications by clicking here.)

**Be sure to print out the plot graphic organizer that can be found at both these prompts. It will help your students think about the sequence while planning an organized story!


Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Fun with Transitions!
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)

Annie Taylor-Martin, a California teacher, shared this idea with us. We sent her the NNWP's Going Deep with 6 Trait Language Guide as our thanks for her being so willing to give back to our site. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com.

"This idea is a little bit organization but also a little bit sentence fluency. I don't know about you, but I think when you teach lessons about transitions, you are actually helping students improve with both those traits."

"First, we read Jules Feiffer's Meanwhile..., which is about a young kid who takes the word meanwhile with him on his adventures, and it helps him escape danger. Following that, we read Fortunately by Remy Charlip, which bases its story on jumping back and forth between two transition words: fortunately and unfortunately.

"My students and I talk about transitions that can be more interesting than and and then. We look at a list of all the transition words in English, and each of my students 'adopts' one for the week. I adopt one too; I usually take a harder one, like thus or consequently. We each wear nametags all week with our transition word on it.

"We spend the week pretending that our personal transition word is an invisible friend. At every opportunity, my students try to find a way to use their transition in a way that goes along with what is being discussed. In small group/partner work, students deliberately try to also use each other's words, which is easy to do since they are on our nametags. A lot of times kids use harder transition words poorly, and every time this happens becomes an opportunity to have a teach-able moment. At week's end, my students can name a dozen more transitions than they could at the beginning of the week. After the week, if I say, "Try to use an interesting, new transition in your writing today, they know exactly what I am asking for.

"Last year, I challenged my students to write original stories (after the week was up) where they made a transition word (other than meanwhile and fortunately) an interesting 'character' in a story during writers workshop. I was amazed how many of my students took on this challenge, and their stories were very enjoyable."

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Organization Sub-Skill #5: Writing Satisfying Conclusions

This section is a new section we've begun developing at WritingFix, in order to show even more depth to the trait of organization. There are a few resources below to get you started, but know that we are determined to find even more that can be posted below. Check back with this section often.

Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on one organization sub-skill: writing better conclusions. A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.


Two Picture Book-Inspired Conclusion Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Chapter Book-Inspired Conclusion Lessons
(Check out WritingFix's entire Chapter Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Lesson title:
Start & Stop Poetry

inspired by
Twilight Comes Twice
by Ralph Fletcher
Lesson title:
Beyond Happily Ever After...

inspired by
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude
by Kevin O'Malley

At present, we have no chapter book lessons that focus on students developing better conclusions. We want to change this!

If you want to become a part of the WritingFix family of teachers by having an original lesson in our collection, consider using our template and creating a new lesson we can post here!

If we accept your lesson and post it here, we will send you any two of the NNWP's Print Publications as our thanks. E-mail lessons and inquiries to webmaster@writingfix.com

Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Teaching Conclusions
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)
Share with us! Earn a free classroom resource! Satisfying Conclusions is a new section we're developing on this organization page. We're looking for a teacher user of WritingFix who is willing to share an activity on this topic that can be posted here. Please refer to the other organization sections' "Ideas from Teacher Users" to see what we think a high-quality submission sounds like. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com. If we post it here, you'll be able to choose from any of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.

 

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Organization Sub-Skill #6: Strong & Satisfying Titles
Each of the six writing traits--organization included--can be broken down into multiple smaller writing skills that--when working together--make-up the bigger trait. Below, find some of our webmaster's favorite resources and lessons that focus specifically on one organization sub-skill: creating satisfying titles . A great writing teacher finds the time to explore as many of each trait's subskills as possible, helping students understand that each trait is built from multiple skills.


A Picture Book-Inspired Title Lesson
(Check out WritingFix's entire Picture Book-Inspired Writing Lesson Collection)
Two Right-Brained Writing Prompts Focused on Titles
(Check out WritingFix's entire Right-Brained Writing Prompts Collection)

Lesson title:
Fracturing Fairy Tales through Titles

inspired by
The Wolf Who Cried Boy
by Bob Hartman

At present, we only have one chapter book lesson that focuses on students developing better transition skills. We want another!

If you want to become a part of the WritingFix family of teachers by having an original lesson in our collection, consider using our template and creating a new lesson we can post here!

If we accept your lesson and post it here, we will send you any two of the NNWP's Print Publications as our thanks. E-mail lessons and inquiries to webmaster@writingfix.com

 


Click on the lesson titles or the book covers to access the complete lesson at WritingFix.

Ideas Shared from Teacher Users of WritingFix: Teaching Satisfying Titles
(WritingFix honors those users who share back with our site. Share a favorite activity write-up and earn a free NNWP resource for your classroom.)

Share with us! Earn a free classroom resource! Satisfying Titles is a new section we're developing on this organization page. We're looking for a teacher user of WritingFix who is willing to share an activity on this topic that can be posted here. Please refer to the other organization sections' "Ideas from Teacher Users" to see what we think a high-quality submission sounds like. Shared ideas can be directed to: webmaster@writingfix.com. If we post it here, you'll be able to choose from any of the NNWP Publications for us to send to your classroom.


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Copyright 2014 - Corbett & Dena Harrison, Educational Consultants, LLC, and WritingFix- All Rights Reserved.
Please, share the resources you find on these pages freely with fellow educators, but please leave any page citations on handouts intact, and please give authorship credit to the cited teachers who created these wonderful lessons and resources. Thanks in advance for honoring other educators' intellectual property.

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