Source#2 Analyzing the Structure of the Parts and the Whole

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Students will be able to analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text and how those sections develop the thesis by close reading a nonfiction article.

Big Idea

We examine a different author' organizational structure to discover what happened to Emmett Till.

Daily Grammar

10 minutes



Headings and Organizational Structure

20 minutes

Today we looked at how the structure and organization of this passage develops the main ideas. 

How does each individual sentence develop a paragraph's topic sentence?  How does each paragraph develop the heading?  How do the headings develop the thesis?

This author's main idea is very similar to the other author's, except that one idea is emphasized more in this text than in the others. It's all there, in the first paragraph.  It's in a whole not more words, but it's all there. The idea that's emphasized more is the importance of Emmett Till's murder in history (in red in the picture). The author is going to explain all of those things, probably in that order.  That's confirmed when you look at the headings.

If you look at the headings, you can see how the author develops that thesis statement.  It's a thesis statement because this passage is an entire essay, not just a paragraph. The headings are: Background, Emmett Till's Murder, Trial, and Impact on Civil Rights.  The big question is what pattern of organization is the author using in order to develop the thesis statement?

Using the Patterns of Organization Reference Sheet and the actual article, we can come to the answer.

We can eliminate spatial order, since the author certainly doesn't describe where things are located.  We can also eliminate compare and contrast, since similarities and differences aren't being discussed. The author isn't providing a solution to a problem, or describing things in the order of importance. The author isn't providing definitions and examples.  Students might want to say that the author is classifying things, but that's not what's being used.

So what is the author using? The author is using two different patterns.  The first is chronological order. The author is describing the order of events in the order in which they happen (background--> murder --> trial --> impact). 

But that's not it.  The author is also using cause and effect. How does each section do that?  "Background" explains Emmett's, well, background.  He grew up in the North, and when he went to the South, he encountered a very different world. "Background" provides the cause and the first few paragraphs of "Emmett Till Murder" shows the effect. The next two sections do the same.  The reason that Emmett's murder is remembered is due to the fact that it had a profound impact on the Civil Rights Movement. "Trial" provides the cause and "Impact on Civil Rights" provides the effect.

I asked students to write about the organizational features the author used (see the questions in the picture above).

The Parts to the Whole: Sentence to Heading

20 minutes

It would take a whole lot of days to discuss every single paragraph.  Therefore, I focused on just a few paragraphs. 

Paragraph 3

The first sentence, the topic sentence, lets you know where this paragraph should go.  Based on the first sentence, this paragraph should be about all (or some) of the ways that Emmett Till's mother was extraordinary. In what ways was she extraordinary? The rest of the paragraph explains it. She

  • faced discrimination, but excelled professionally and academically
  • she was the fourth black student to graduate from a white high school
  • was the first black student to make the A Honor Roll
  • raised Emmett as a single mother
  • worked as an Air Force clerk in charge of confidential files

 Paragraph 17

Paragraph 17 explains why the case was so important.  The topic sentence claims that Till's death was an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. How was it the beginning? The rest of the paragraph explains it.

  • Till's death occurred only one year after segregation was legally ended. 
  • One hundred days, three months later, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus.
  • Nine years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which made discrimination and segregation illegal. 
  • In 1965, discrimination in voting was made illegal.

Would those things have happened if Till had received justice in the courtroom?

Now let's examine the sentence structure in Paragraph 17

How does the author make connections between these events?  It's not just a list of important historical events. The author makes connections between them using particular phrases and clauses.  By using clauses and phrases such as "coming only one year after," "one hundred days after" (rather than three months), and "nine years later" the author draws lines between those events.  It's not just a list of important historical events to this author, and the author draws those lines to help the reader come to the same conclusion.



Lesson Resources

Today's lesson picture shows the big idea of the lesson in a graphic.  Yay graphics!