Home > Our Design Lab > Learning Activities > Tower Theme Writing

Tower Theme Writing


This strategy helps students to plan and structure compositions centered around a theme. They learn a sequence of steps that help them to generate and order ideas, connect paragraphs, revise, and finally to produce a final draft. By using the acronym TOWER, they can recall five steps of planning and writing, which supports confidence and success. Students can use this strategy to write increasingly longer and more complex thematic compositions. The five steps are: T: Think of ideas. O: Order ideas. W: Write ideas in connected paragraphs. E: Error monitoring using COPS. R: Recopy. C: Capitalization O: Overall appearance P: Punctuation S: Spelling

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Writing from Sources


Create a handout or display of the five TOWER steps and prepare to model them for students. If students are not totally familiar with COPS, you should also create a handout or display of these steps Identify the writing topic or theme.

Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher reviews the steps of TOWER, including COPS, and reminds students of what constitutes a good sentence, and a good paragraph. Teacher reviews the types and order of paragraphs in thematic writing: first an introductory paragraph, then detail paragra

    This activity is intended for students who already have some facility in writing sentences and paragraphs, and are ready to write longer compositions with greater independence.

  2. T: Students generate ideas for their composition and record them.

    You can use this activity with topics that students develop themselves, or you can assign a general topic and students can generate ideas about details and thesis statements.

  3. O: Students read through the ideas they generated and organize them using an outline, map, or other graphic organizer.

    For this step you can use any type of outline or graphic organizer that will allow students to organize their ideas for each of the paragraphs (topic, detail, and concluding). A simple linear outline is fine.

  4. W: Students write their ideas in paragraphs. First they write a topic paragraph, then a detail paragraph for each of the primary details, and finally a concluding paragraph.

    Depending on the length of the composition this step may be completed in a single class, over multiple days, or at home. Remind students to use their outlines from the previous step to guide their writing and to ensure that they stay on track.

  5. E: Students read back through their writing and use the acronym COPS to edit for mechanics and general appearance. They edit sentence structure, and revise for general meaning and sound.

    The COPS protocol is: C: Capitalization O: Overall appearance P: Punctuation S: Spelling Students may benefit from also pairing up and revising each other’s work, perhaps with a checklist to refer to.

  6. R: After revising their papers thoroughly, students recopy compositions for a final version. Students reread final copy and make any last changes.

    If students are handwriting, they should write a clean copy at this point. If they are using computers then they should make sure they have incorporated all edits.

  7. Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.

    Students respond to questions including: · How does the TOWER strategy influence your ability to plan your writing? · How does the TOWER strategy influence your ability to execute your writing? · How does the TOWER strategy influence your ability to revise your writing? · How might you adapt the TOWER strategy so that it is even more useful to you? · In what other class might the TOWER strategy be helpful to you?

Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More