K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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About the lesson

This lesson was created as part of the NCDPI Writing Lessons for Writing Features workshop (Feature: Organization).

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Learning outcomes

Students will learn to do a close reading of a problem/solution text and to analyze both what the text says and what the text does. From this close reading and analysis, students will observe and understand problem/solution text structures and will be able to replicate the structure in their own writing.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3 hours


Honk if You’re Overrun by Geese” by Tom Kenworthy, USA Today, April 7, 2002. The story is on pages eight, nine, and ten of this PDF from Roswell Independent School District in Roswell, New Mexico.


Pre-read the essay, prepare a transparency of the essay and circle or underline the different parts of the essay with different colored markers.



  1. Explain to students how important it is to understand that things we read have various parts with their own functions and purposes. Poor readers do not analyze text as they read. They don’t say to themselves, for example “This part of the essay tells me what the next part is all about,” or “This part gives an anecdote to support the statement that was made before,” etc.
  2. Tell them you are going to demonstrate how to analyze the structure of a problem/solution essay by writing “what it says” and “what it does” statements.
  3. Put the article on the overhead. In a think-aloud activity, demonstrate to students how the author has structured the essay. Say something like the following: “What it says in the first few paragraphs is that geese have become a problem. They are staying in the U.S. instead of migrating north. They are causing problems in golf courses and they are causing health and safety problems.” Underline sentences that tell you this in red. Then explain what the purpose of this part of the essay might be: “What this part of the article does is to describe the problems communities face.” Write notes in green in the margins to indicate this is what these sentences “do” for the essay.

Guided Practice

  1. After modeling the “What it says and what it does” strategy, ask students to analyze the first proposed solution in the same way (What does the “proposed plan” in paragraph 12 say and what does it do?) Have them write a “what it says” and “what it does” statement and share with their group. Then do the same with the alternate solution (that of animal protection groups).

Independent Practice

  1. After students have analyzed the structure of a problem/solution article, ask students to identify a problem that is of interest to them and discuss in their groups at least two possible solutions. Caution students to remain objective and not choose a particular solution to espouse. Then students should write a first draft of a problem/solution essay.


  1. Help students develop a rubric or scoring guide for peer-reviewing first drafts. In their first draft “read around,” students should be able to write “what it says,” and “what it does” statements about at least one paragraph in each essay of their group so that is clear what the paragraph says and what the paragraph does to make the point. In their peer review activity, students should provide feedback to the writer to guide revisions.


Assessment is based on the effectiveness of the problem/solution essay students write, and on whether or not peers are able to write “what it says” and “what it does” statements without difficulty.

Modifications / extensions

Use problem/solution essays from your writing/grammar resource or from professional writings as models.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 10

  • Goal 2: The learner will evaluate problems, examine cause/effect relationships, and answer research questions to inform an audience.
    • Objective 2.01: Demonstrate the ability to read, listen to and view a variety of increasingly complex print and non-print informational texts appropriate to grade level and course literary focus, by:
      • selecting, monitoring, and modifying as necessary reading strategies appropriate to readers' purpose.
      • identifying and analyzing text components (such as organizational structures, story elements, organizational features) and evaluating their impact on the text.
      • providing textual evidence to support understanding of and reader's response to text.
      • demonstrating comprehension of main idea and supporting details.
      • summarizing key events and/or points from text.
      • making inferences, predicting, and drawing conclusions based on text.
      • identifying and analyzing personal, social, historical or cultural influences, contexts, or biases.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics.
      • analyzing and evaluating the effects of author's craft and style.
      • analyzing and evaluating the connections or relationships between and among ideas, concepts, characters and/or experiences.
      • identifying and analyzing elements of informational environment found in text in light of purpose, audience, and context.
  • Goal 4: The learner will critically interpret and evaluate experiences, literature, language, and ideas.
    • Objective 4.03: Analyze the ideas of others by identifying the ways in which writers:
      • introduce and develop a main idea.
      • choose and incorporate significant, supporting, relevant details.
      • relate the structure/organization to the ideas.
      • use effective word choice as a basis for coherence.
      • achieve a sense of completeness and closure.