Do you need ideas for teaching students about RELEVANT DETAILS? This writing mini-lesson will provide ideas for teaching students about writing relevant details in a paragraph including TRANSITION WORDS to help the paragraph flow smoothly. It is part of a STEP-BY-STEP WRITING® series of mini lessons for writer’s workshop designed to scaffold through the writing process. If you haven’t covered topic sentences from the previous lesson, go to TOPIC SENTENCES first!

MINI-LESSON #6:  RELEVANT DETAILS is the second mini-lesson for paragraph writing.


Within a paragraph, writers need to STICK TO THE TOPIC. This means that everything in the paragraph is related to the topic sentence and is IMPORTANT! Just like the meat, lettuce and tomato are important parts of the burger! Think of the details as being juicy!

VIP-P  Very Important Piece of the Paragraph!

Relevant Details:

  • Support the topic and give the writing true meaning.
  • Creates imagery, a picture in the reader’s mind.
  • Is the perfect place to include personal experiences or detailed examples.

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 that the underlined words are relevant to Fall being the narrator’s favorite season. It supports the topic sentence. It creates imagery. Can you visualize burnt marshmallows? It gives personal experiences like hiking and fishing.
This is the time to also discuss IRRELEVANT DETAILS. Irrelevant details are sentences that do not stick to the topic. It doesn’t make sense for the paragraph.
Example:  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 also like summer. I love fall weather!
Notice that the sentence about summer does not stick to the topic about fall.


Students should take notes and show examples. VIP-P- very important piece to the paragraph! Use interactive notes in a notebook form or digital form. It will help students establish ownership and have an effective resource to guide them when writing paragraphs in the future.


Provide students with practice. Practice, Practice, Practice! Scaffold the practice. First, students identify irrelevant details in paragraphs. Then students can write their own relevant details. This can be done by giving prompts and only writing the relevant details for each prompt. It can also be used with the previous lesson, so students can build paragraphs from the topic sentence. When all three lessons are completed, they will have all the components of a paragraph for those specific prompts! Use graphic organizers to keep the flow of the lessons. Remember this is the meat and veggies – the juicy part of the burger!

Task cards and self-check slides are a great way to give students extra practice in centers or at home.



This is the perfect time to also teach TRANSITION WORDS to use with relevant details. It can be taught to the whole group or used for differentiation. Transition words help sequence or organize the relevant details. They create a smooth and logical flow of the writing. The root word “trans” means transit or passing through. They help the reader pass through the paragraph. They organize the relevant details to create a smooth and logical flow. It is helpful for students to take notes and practice this skill as well!

For middle school students, discuss the difference between a phrase and a clause.

phrase is a group of words that may have nouns or verbs, but it does not have a subject.

leaving behind the cat
smashing into a wall
before the next movie

clause is a group of words in a sentence that has a subject and predicate. Some clauses may stand alone as their own sentence!

since she runs to music
when the saints go marching in
because he made the last shot


Provide a prompt or have students brainstorm ideas for a paragraph. Then they can use these ideas to write a paragraph using relevant details and transition words. It is OK that you haven’t covered closing sentences yet. You are only focusing on topic sentences, relevant details, and transition words! OR give students a topic sentence and have them create relevant details with transition words for it.

After everyone is finished, students can present their paragraphs in groups or whole group and other students can point out the relevant details and transition words. Discuss why they are relevant. Are there any irrelevant details? Do the transition words help with the flow?



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.



I hope this helps you and your students when writing relevant details and transition words in a paragraph!  



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This lesson is also included in the STEP-BY-STEP WRITING® Programwith mini-lessons designed to scaffold through the writing process. Writing units included are sentence structure, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, and informative writing. See what is included in the image below and click on it to learn more about them! You will turn your reluctant writers into ROCKSTAR WRITERS™! 

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