If you are looking for ideas to teach PARAGRAPH WRITING, you are in the right place! It is part of a STEP-BY-STEP WRITING® series of mini-lessons for writer’s workshop designed to scaffold through the writing process. Paragraph writing will extend through three posts (lessons 5 topic sentences, 6 relevant details, and 7 closing sentences). Now that your students are WRITING COMPLETE SENTENCES using the previous mini-lessons, they are ready to learn how to write a paragraph!
PARAGRAPH GRAPHIC ORGANIZER
To begin, show students a hamburger or turkey or vegan burger 😋 anchor chart. Tell them that you will be using a burger to explain how to write a paragraph. This will introduce all three lessons on paragraph writing and give them a visual. Get ready to write juicy paragraphs by learning about:
- TOPIC SENTENCE
- RELEVANT DETAILS
- CLOSING SENTENCE
The topic sentence is the top bun. It introduces the main idea of the paragraph. The relevant details talk about that main idea. It is the meat and veggies of the burger. The closing sentence is the bottom bun. It finishes the paragraph. Having this visual will help them “see” how to put a paragraph together!
MINI-LESSON #5 TOPIC SENTENCES is the first mini-lesson for paragraph writing.
Paragraphs need to have topic sentences. It is a way of organizing and expressing the main idea of the paragraph! (That is why I use MAIN STREET for the visual. Main Street-Main Idea. Get it?) This is the top bun of the burger!
A topic sentence:
- Answers questions like why, how, or where.
- Has supporting sentences or relevant details.
- Can prove, explain, or describe something.
Prompt example: What is your favorite season?
Paragraph: Fall is my favorite season. The weather is perfect for outside activities. I like going on hikes with my brother and fishing with my dad. I look forward to the smell of a fire and the taste of burnt marshmallows. I love fall weather!
Notice the underlined sentence is the topic sentence. It is the main idea of the paragraph. Everything else in the paragraph refers to fall being the favorite season. There are details that follow to answer “why” it is the favorite season.
2. TEACH INDENTS
This is the perfect time to introduce INDENTS! Point out paragraph indentions in text books or stories to reinforce this lesson! Indents are when you move the first line of a paragraph to the right and create a space.
- It is usually 5 letter spaces.
- The first sentence of every paragraph should be indented to show where the paragraph begins.
- The rest of the sentences should be lined up on the left. If using notebook paper, these sentences should line up on the pink or red line.
3. TAKE NOTES
If using interactive notebooks, create something similar to the following. Students should take notes and give examples. This will provide them with an amazing reference to flip through when writing paragraphs in the future. When I walk around during a writing assignment and notice students who forgot to add a topic sentence, I remind them to use their notebooks. It works wonders! It is an effective tool to use in small groups and reteaching too.
If using a digital format, you can still have students write with interactive notes by having them move pieces and filling in text boxes!
Provide students with practice. Practice, Practice, Practice! I like to scaffold the practice. First, students should identify topic sentences in paragraphs. Then students can write their own topic sentences. This can be done by giving writing prompts and only writing the topic sentence for each prompt. It can also be saved for the following lessons, so students can build paragraphs from the prompts. When all three lessons are completed, they will have all the components of a paragraph for those specific prompts! Use graphic organizers to keep flow of the lessons.
Task cards and self-check slides are a great way to give students extra practice in centers or at home.
5. GO DEEPER
Do you want your students’ topic sentences to have Rockin’ Beginnings? This can be used to differentiate in your classroom as well. Use the following anchor chart to help students write better topic sentences. I usually wait to introduce this skill with essay writing, but sometimes there are students who are ready earlier!
6. APPLY AND SHARE
Provide a prompt or have students brainstorm ideas for a paragraph. Then they can use these ideas to write a paragraph using a topic sentence. It is OK that you haven’t covered the other paragraph writing skills yet. You are only looking at the topic sentence! OR give students a paragraph without the topic sentence and have them add the topic sentence.
After everyone is finished, students can present their paragraphs in groups or whole group and other students can point out the topic sentence. Discuss why it is a topic sentence. Is it the main idea of the paragraph?
Whole group idea: As students are reading their paragraphs, ask other students to hold a hand up to their ears when they hear the topic sentence. It may help keep their attention!
7. ASSESS AND TRACK
This will be used at the end of paragraph writing. Have students work independently on writing a paragraph. Use a rubric to assess their skills in paragraph writing. Then record their progress. Each time you grade paragraph writing, record it on the same form. This will be helpful when forming small instructional groups and review.
NEXT LESSON: RELEVANT DETAILS
I hope this helps with your instruction! GET READY TO TURN YOUR RELUCTANT WRITERS INTO ROCKSTAR WRITERS™!
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