Five Ways Students Can Organize Their Writing

There are two types of writers in the writing world. One of them is called a “pantser.” Basically, these types of writers fly by the seat of their pants. They start at the beginning and write the story as if telling it to their child at bedtime. They kind of make things up as they go along. The other type of writer is the “planner.” The planner has to organize chapters. They have to know the ending before they start the beginning. Everything is neatly put into categories. Both of these writers are wonderful, and both of them will end at the same result.

Our students are pansters and planners. We can’t discourage our pantsers, because that is their way of writing. However, we have to show our pansters that planning is ok too. Many times it is not that a student can’t plan, it’s that they don’t know how. This is where we come in. I don’t force my fifth graders to use graphic organizers. One of my best writers I’ve ever had actually despised using them. However, I love using them because the majority of students benefit from them including my ELLs. Here are the five ways I encourage students to organize their writing in my class.

Organize by Idea:

Before we even get started, I like students to organize their ideas and brainstorm. It is essential to at least come up with a variety of ideas in case one does not work out. There are several ways you can do this. Quick writing is a great pre-writing strategy that I will tackle in another blog post. However, a graphic organizer where students can start thinking creatively, is another great strategy. This graphic organizer pictured below, allows students to develop three different types of story ideas using a picture and words.

Organize by Events

After you have students organize their ideas, they can choose one they like best. Then, they are ready to start thinking about what events will happen in their story. Being able to write down specific events will allow students to develop parts of the story in their head before writing them down. The graphic organizer below is simple and straight forward. However, the visual representation of “growing their story,” will allow students to visualize their story as a whole, and something that needs to be developed.

Organize by Sequence

Once students have decided on which events they would like to take place in their story, they can now start to organize them by sequence. Sequencing is important for many students. Again, not all students will know what they want the end of the story to be at this point. I tell them that it is ok, but to try to develop some form of an idea if possible. I always let them know that it is ok to change this idea when they start writing. Never discourage change and deviation from their graphic organizers or students will be apprehensive to write something down in the first place. If they know they can go back and change it, they are more likely to take risks.

Organize by Problem/Solution

Now that they have a basic idea of what they would like their events to be, they can start thinking more in depth about the story. This includes what they may want the problem and solution to be. The nice thing about the following graphic organizer, is it allows students to develop three different problems with three different solutions. This way as students are writing, they can decide which problem and solution is working best for their story. 

 Organize by Details

This last graphic organizer is one of my favorites. It allows students to start thinking about what details they would like in their story. I often encourage them to try thinking about sensory details and choose something they can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell for each writing space. These sensory details will add to the overall story, and help students become used to adding visual imagery. 


As I stated earlier, with your many different types of writers, these graphic organizers will not benefit all students. However, it is great to have available these different types of organizational pieces so students can decide what works best for them. I always have these available for my students during all stages of the writing process!

For a free sample of these graphic organizers click here.

For the full “Organize your Writing” product, including 10 graphic organizers and five posters, click here.

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