The Order of Reasons

Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 50 minutes

This activity makes sense as part of a larger conversation about the organizational logic of an essay. First, look at a recent reading or two, identify the reasons, and talk about why reasons appear in the order they do. Generate a list of ordering strategies: from weakest reason to strongest, from strongest to weakest, from earliest to latest chronologically, from West to East geographically (or North to South, or nearest to farthest, etc.), or--best of all--from cause to effect. The strongest essays tend to have reasons that grow out of one another: because reason A is true, then reason B is also true. (Novices often produce reasons that have nothing to do with one another, like spokes on a wheel.)
Put students into groups of two or three. Distribute an article that you have cut up into an introduction and various reason paragraphs (cut out transition sentences). Ask students to arrange the reasons in the most sensible order, and to write translations that articulate the relationship between reasons. Share results with one another; why did groups arrange the way they did? Repeat with another article, or ask students to look at their most recent essays to see how they connected the reasons.