Organizing Ideas: Impact of Higher Order Cognition and Temporal-Sequential Ordering

Once ideas have been generated, they need to be organized. Ideas may be organized based on the specific type of genre. For example, a story may begin with, "Once upon a time ..." followed by the development of the setting of the story, the characters, some action or event, followed by some resolution, the event just before "The End" is written. Of course other sequences may be used, such as cause-effect, temporal sequence or time line.

Often, new ideas may be generated as a student writes. Rarely does a writer come up with all of their ideas before they begin writing. Often students just need enough ideas to get started and provide themselves with a guide of what they are going to write about and in what order. While they are writing, new ideas will need to be organized, or incorporated into ideas that were generated during the formal planning step in the writing process.

Here are some strategies to help students develop their ability to organize ideas during writing.

Helpful Hints

  • Have students practice activities that involve organization, such as giving an account of what he/she did last night, during the weekend, or over the past month of school.  
  • Read two stories to students, one of which is a list of events and one of which describes one event with a lot of details. Have students say what is different about the stories. Make sure they understand that one is like a grocery list, it give a list of things that happened but doesn't provide the reader of a clear picture of what things looked or sounded like. Have the students write a story about a particular event, trying to add details throughout the description.  
  • Give the student a list of words and have the student organize them into groups. Provide students with different types of graphic organizers and outlines to group the words. Allow students to choose which graphic organizer or outline works best for them for this activity and for their own projects.  
  • Allow the student to make an outline before writing. When the student correctly organizes an activity, praise the student.  
  • Demonstrate how to use outlines and graphic organizers. Discuss that sometimes outlines or graphic organizers can have too much information in them. For example, have students come up with an outline or graphic that would help them tell a story to a classmate. Have them tell the story while their partner looks at their outline. Discuss how much more information the storyteller added than was written on the paper.  
  • Give students a list of ideas in the wrong order and have them identify or reorder the list into a paragraph. Students can also do this with the ideas in a comic strip.  
  • Have students use computer software programs that help them generate outlines and graphic maps of their ideas such as the Inspiration program.  
  • Provide specific age-appropriate strategies for the student to use to check his/her work. The following are just some of the many strategies that exist for writing:

KWL Plus

  • What do I know
  • What do I want to learn
  • What have I learned
  • Plus = Write a summary of what I've learned using mapping (Carr, E. & Ogle, D., 1987)

Verbal-reasoning strategies:

  • Form an argument
  • Challenge the ideas of the argument
  • Build sentences
  • Think of additional ideas

Tree

  • Think of a Topic sentence
  • Reasons to support topic sentence
  • Examine reasons
  • Ending

Composition Strategy

  • PLANS (Pick goals, List ways to accomplish goals, And make Notes. Sequence notes.)
  • Write
  • Test goals

STOP

  • Suspend judgment. (consider each side)
  • Take a side. (pick strongest argument)
  • Organize ideas. (strongest points, weakest, order)
  • Plan more as you write

DARE

  • Develop topic sentence
  • Add supporting ideas
  • Reject at least one argument for other side.
  • End with conclusion

Self-Regulated Strategy Development

  • Create a plan for writing
  • Who is the audience
  • How will writing affect audience
  • Write and review

PLEASE Strategy

  • P Pick a topic, audience and format.
  • L List information on the topic.
  • E Evaluate list.
  • A Activate paragraph with topic sentence.
  • S Supply supporting sentences
  • E End with a concluding sentence and Evaluate. (Welch, M., 1992)