Students work in pairs to analyze and improve the organization of a paragraph or essay using hard copies of their paper. Alternatively, this activity can be adapted for remote learning situations.


To focus on the structure of a paragraph or an essay; to consider the effects of transitions and signposting language on readers; to revise a paragraph or essay for clearer organization and logic

Key Terms

organization; logic; structure; paragraphing; transitions; signal phrases/signposting


Remote learning implementation:
Students can prepare their paragraphs or essays by copying them into a new file, skipping a line after each, sorting alphabetically, and then sharing a document with their partner; the editing/reorganization can happen synchronously in a breakout room or asynchronously. Students can write a brief reflection on their experience as both a writer and a reader and then all pairs can discuss what they learned together in a full-class synchronous session.
  1. Decide whether you’d like students to focus on a single paragraph (and if so, introduction or a body paragraph) or their entire essay.
  2. Ask students to come prepared with a single-sided printout of their paper, cut up into paragraphs, or with sentences from a single paragraph. (Tip: have students copy their paragraph into a new file, skip a line after each sentence, sort alphabetically to randomize the order of sentences, then cut the sentences apart).
  3. Divide students into pairs.
  4. Prompt each student to try to reconstruct their partner’s paragraph (or essay).
  5. Discuss their conclusions:
    • Did their partner’s reconstruction match their original? Why or why not?
    • What transitions, signposting language/signal phrases, deictic terms (pronouns, etc.), or other clues did their partner use?
    • Were there places where their partner was lost? Why? How might they as a writer respond to that and revise for clearer structure?
    • Were there places where their partner’s reconstruction was “better” than their original? If so, in what way?