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
organization; logic; structure; paragraphing; transitions; signal phrases/signposting
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.
- Decide whether you’d like students to focus on a single paragraph (and if so, introduction or a body paragraph) or their entire essay.
- 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).
- Divide students into pairs.
- Prompt each student to try to reconstruct their partner’s paragraph (or essay).
- 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?