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Patterns of Organization

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 0 Comments

Expository text typically incorporates five common patterns of organization, and transition words and phrases often signal the use of these patterns in text. These patterns are sometimes referred to as text structures. They are more commonly found in informational and opinion types of writing, but may also be used in narratives. The topic web graphic organizer below identifies the five patterns with a brief description below each. They are presented left to right from simplest pattern to most difficult.

Why is it important to teach students about these structures? Awareness of patterns of organization supports reading comprehension and improves the quality of student writing. Children in the primary grades can be introduced to them during read aloud by showing how authors incorporate patterns of organization in model text. At the earliest grades, it’s best to introduce one pattern at a time, starting with the simplest (i.e., description, sequence). Begin by showing students clear and obvious paragraph examples from text used in class. In the primary grades, where children typically write just a few sentences to a few paragraphs, have students produce a sample piece of writing that uses the same pattern found in the model text. Gradually introduce additional patterns, ending with the most difficult (problem and solution). Click here to download a free set of cards that can be used to introduce patterns of organization to young students. Click here to download a free set of paragraph templates for writing the five patterns or organization (as shown in the description paragraph example below).

Beyond grade 4 and into high school, much of the text that students read will incorporate multiple patterns of organization within the same text, possibly within the same paragraph. A news article, for example, might begin with a description of an event, then chronicle the sequence of details related to the event, and then end with an explanation of the effect that was caused by the event. When introducing a pattern of organization to students in these grades, try to find text samples that clearly show how the pattern is used in isolation. Then have them emulate the use of the pattern in their own writing. As students become more familiar with the differences among the patterns, they can then be shown model text that mixes the patterns.


Transition words and phrases, also called linking words, are useful for connecting sentences, paragraphs, or sections of text. They also provide “clues” while reading about the pattern of organization used in the text, and can similarly be used by the student when writing to signal a pattern of organization. The Common Core State Standards include writing standards across grades 1 through 12 that require students to use transitions.

Keys to Literacy provides free access to two transition lists, one for primary grades and one for grades 4-12, as shown below. Click here for the primary list. Click here for the 4-12 list.



Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founding partner of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy routines. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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