Prioritizing Criteria


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Example Organization Exercise

This exercise, especially useful for an Arguing paper, requires you to make large posters, depicting the Example Organization List below. Then, have your students hold the posters while the others tell them where to stand. For example, "Jeff, you go to the right of Gina." Students think this is dorky, but it works.

First, ask students to order only #1 through #7. Encourage them to explain their reasoning, as well as to consider alternatives. It's important here to point out that some of these items may not be essential. For instance, a paper might not have an essay map, or #6 and #7 might be the same thing.

Next, take out #5, #6, And #7 and add #8 through #10 to illustrate the importance of organizing to highlight strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Third, take those three out and put in #11 through #16, and students begin to see that they can break their argument into a point-by-point format. A similar strategy works well with organization on a paragraph label. You can literally cut up a piece of writing and have students put it back together. This works with weak as well as strong samples. Students see that weak writing lacks clear metadiscursive cues and a logical, chronological, or hierarchical sequence of ideas. Typically, visual exercises work best for teaching organization.

Example Organization List

  1. Essay Map
  2. Background Information
  3. Introduction
  4. Conclusion
  5. Your Claim and Evidence
  6. Refutation of Opposing Arguments
  7. Address Drawbacks or Weaknesses of Your Claim
  8. Strong Point
  9. Medium Point
  10. Weak Point
  11. Point One and Evidence
  12. Point Two and Evidence
  13. Point Three and Evidence
  14. Address Opposition or Weaknesses: Point One
  15. Address Opposition or Weaknesses: Point Two
  16. Address Opposition or Weaknesses: Point Three