How to Write a Paragraph

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The following lessons are ones that I developed to teach my students how to write a paragraph. I hope you find them useful!
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4Week 5

Week 1: Introduction to Paragraphs
The objective of this lesson is to teach students the proper way to write a paragraph (format, not content). 

  • Thumb-Rule: Write a small paragraph on the board and read with the students.  Then have students copy the paragraph, starting with the thumb-rule.  Students use their thumb to indent their paragraph.  Have students repeat the word "indent" and explain that all paragraphs must be indented.  Demonstrate how they use their thumbs to indent.

  • Practice: The students practice copying paragraphs the rest of the week.  Review capitalization and punctuation rules.  This activity is used for handwriting practice as well.  The reason I stress practice is that many students will start a new sentence on the next line instead of continuing to the end of the paper.  Many of my students have a difficult time going to the end of the paper because they have been taught to start new sentences on the next line.  

Week 2: Identifying Main Idea/Topic Sentences and Supporting Sentences
The objective of this lesson is to teach students how to identify the main idea of paragraphs and the purpose of a topic sentence.

  • Identifying Main Idea: Copy a short paragraph onto the board/transparency/chart paper.  Have the students read the paragraph aloud.  Ask students what the paragraph is about.  Once they have correctly answered, ask the students if there were any sentences that told them what the paragraph would be about.  They should answer that all of the sentences talk about the main idea.  Next, have props or pictures of a theme, such as school supplies (notebook, pencil, textbook) and have students ask what the props/pictures are about (or what the big idea is).  Have prepared 3-4 lunch bags with pictures and/or props and place students in cooperative groups.  Each group receives a bag, takes out the items, and discuss what the idea is. On a sheet of paper, they write their answer.  Then bags are exchanged until each group has received all the bags and written down their ideas.  Then as a class, review the contents in each bag and discuss the main idea of each bag.  Click here for some main ideas and items you can use with this activity.  Click on the picture below to download a worksheet for classroom/homework use:

main_idea.gif (15464 bytes)

  • Identifying the Topic Sentence:  Now that students are aware that paragraphs talk about one main idea,  introducing the topic sentence should be easy.  Have all students use a green crayon/marker/pen etc for this next activity.  Have students copy a short paragraph.  Ask students what the main idea is.  Then explain that all paragraphs have a topic sentence, which tells the reader what the paragraph will be about.  Ask students to identify the topic sentence (sometimes I hint that the topic sentence is at the beginning of the paragraph) Have the students use the green crayon to underline the topic sentence.  Next, prepare three paragraphs on separate chart/poster papers.  Leave out the topic sentence and in its place draw a green line. On sentence strips, write the topic sentence of each paragraph.  Post the three paragraphs on the wall/board.  Tell the students that each paragraph is missing its topic sentence.  Place the sentence strips with the topic sentences in a visible spot by the charts.  Have the students read the paragraphs and the topic sentences. Using tape, have students place the topic sentences onto the correct paragraph. Then review.     Extension Activity: For the rest of the week, the students copy or receive worksheets with short paragraphs.  Using a green crayon or marker, students must underline the topic sentences.  Click on the two worksheets below for samples and practice.

topic.gif (21444 bytes)    topic2.gif (10898 bytes) 

  • Identifying Supportive Details:  Review the activity on identifying main ideas.  Point out the the items talked about the main idea.  Post some short paragraphs or use previous paragraphs from the lesson above.  Have students underline the topic sentence with a green crayon/marker.  Next, ask students to underline the sentences that give details about the topic sentence using a yellow crayon/marker.  To further extend this concept, have students read paragraphs that contain sentences that do not belong.  Here is an example:

A New Pet

     I would like to have a new pet.  I have a cat and a dog.  Goldfish and birds would be good pets.  Birthdays are fun.  Maybe I will get a hamster or a rabbit.

           Students rewrite the paragraphs making sure to omit the sentence that does not belong.

These activities are only a preparation for the Traffic Signal System that they learn in Weeks 3 & 4.  You will understand why when you read the next part:

Weeks 3 & 4: Learning Parts of a Paragraph (Traffic Signal System)

 
GO = Topic Sentence: The sentence that tells what the paragraph will be about.
CONTINUE = Supporting Sentences: These sentences add details to the topic sentence.
STOP
= Ending Sentence: This sentence closes the paragraph.  It tells the reader that the paragraph is finished.

traffic_para2.gif (22973 bytes)
Click to get a printable traffic light.

  • Materials: Green, yellow, and red construction paper strips, large traffic light chart (see above), traffic light worksheet for each student.

Step 1: Give each student 1 green strip, 3 yellow strips, and 1 red strip.  Brainstorm topics with the class and write onto a chart.
Step 2: Choose a topic and explain that students are going to learn how to write a paragraph using the Traffic Light System.  Point to the chart and discuss with students that there are three parts to a paragraph-- a beginning (topic sentence), a middle (supporting sentences), and an end (ending sentence).
Step 3: Take out a green strip and have students do the same. Have students come up with a topic sentence based on the topic they have chosen.  For example, the topic is school.  The topic sentence can be:

School is very important.

Everyone writes the topic sentence on a green strip.  Explain that green means "go" and we have begun our paragraph. 
Step 4: Have students take out their 3 yellow strips.  Explain that they have to think of three supporting sentences, or sentences that will are about the topic sentence.  Write the students' sentences the yellow strips.

You learn how to read books.

Teachers teach you how to add and subtract.

You learn how to write and use computers.

Have students write the three sentences onto their yellow strips.
Step 5: Explain to students that they now have to close/finish/end the paragraph or STOP.  Ending sentences can (a) repeat the topic sentence in a different way, (b) express how we feel about the topic, (c) express what we think about the topic.

It is important to go to school. (repeating topic sentence)

I love going to school. (expresses feeling)

I think school is important for kids. (expresses thoughts)

Step 6: Have students place the strips one under the other.

School is very important.

You learn how to read books.

Teachers teach you how to add and subtract.

You learn how to write and use computers.

I think school is important for kids. 

Remind students that their strips represents the traffic light.  Have students read aloud their paragraph.  Tell students that the yellow strips (supporting sentences) can be moved around so that the paragraph is in order or makes more sense.  

School is very important.

Teachers teach you how to add and subtract.

You learn how to read books.

You learn how to write and use computers.

I think school is important for kids. 

Step 7: Give each student a large sheet of construction paper.  Explain that the students are going to glue their strips onto the construction paper to make it LOOK like a paragraph.  Here is what it will eventually look like: (students can use scissors to cut the strips).

      School is very important.Teachers teach you how to add and subtract.You learn how to read books.You learn how to write and use computers.I think school is important for kids. 

Step 8: Once they've completed the above, have students rewrite the paragraph on regular paper.
Step 9: For the first week, students work in pairs and are given topic sentences to create paragraphs using the the colored strips.  The second week, the students do the same except they are given a topic instead of a topic sentence.

Week 5: Learning How to Edit

Use this checklist and rubric chart to teach students how to edit their paragraphs.  

checklist.gif (22606 bytes)              rubric.gif (42228 bytes)

Students work in pairs to help edit each other's work.  This is done on their Sloppy Copy #1.  When they have completed editing the work, they rewrite the paragraph onto a new sheet of paper labeled Sloppy Copy #2.  This copy is used for the student/teacher conference in which we discuss their writing, any mistakes made, etc.  Once this is done, students then write their Final Copy.

 

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Learning Centers

  • Paragraph Sequence:  Write the sentences of a paragraph onto separate sentence strips.  Place strips into a large envelope.  Students need to place the sentence strips in the correct order to create a paragraph.  They then copy the paragraph onto a sheet of paper for assessment.

  • Topic Sentence Match:  Using large index cards, make a stack of paragraphs without topic sentences and a stack of cards with the topic sentence.  Students need to match the paragraphs with the correct topic sentence.  They read the paragraphs to themselves and make an illustration.

  • Picture Prompt: Place a stack of card with pictures glued on (you can print pictures from the computer or cut them out of newspapers and magazines.).  Students are to choose a card and write a paragraph on what they see.  Remind the students to add a title.

  • Choose-A-Chart: On chart papers, write short paragraphs with mistakes such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, sequence, etc.  Place the chart papers in large ziplock bags.  Students choose a chart to work on.  They edit the paragraph and write the new version on a piece of paper. (For more info. on choose-a-chart, visit this site.)

  • Story Packets: On a large envelope, write a topic and words associated with that topic.  Place paper inside the envelope.  Allow students to choose a story packet and write about the topic printed on the envelope.  Some examples of story packets are Christmas, School, Birthday Party, Beach, etc.

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