Teach paragraph writing skill Focus first and foremost on body paragraphs
Paragraph writing makes a scribbler feel like a writer. Even though
the hardest part of writing is the preparation, you'll never convince
your younger students that they are doing real writing until they
start writing paragraphs.
Start by teaching students how to write body paragraphs.
They are used more frequently than the other types. Also, they canand
frequently dostand on their own as miniature essays.
Also, your students can learn how to write a particular type of
essay by a writing single paragraphs
of that type. Someone who, for example, can write a paragraph of
argument knows the techniques for writing a multi-page argument.
Save teaching about introductions and conclusions until after students
master the art of body paragraph writing.
Below is an overview of concepts and ideas that you need to teach
Teach 3 basic paragraph types
Students need to know how to write a paragraph of introduction,
ending (conclusion) and exposition.
Students can be taught to write each of the types by formula
until they learn the process of writing an entire essay by combining
the three types.
Once they understand the process by which a piece of writing comes
together, you can begin helping students learn how to make various
small adjustments to the patterns of the various types of
paragraphs to create increasingly complex and less formulaic
Remember writing is a skill:
Students must master the basics of writing before
they can develop finesse.
Body (expository) paragraphs
When we talk about teaching how to write a paragraph, we usually
mean teaching body paragraph writing.
The body paragraph is also called the expository
paragraph. Body paragraphs contain the evidence
to support the thesis.
Body paragraphs should focus on topic sentence
Body paragraphs frequently begin with a topic
sentence that tells what the paragraph is about. In the standard
thesis and support pattern, topic sentences are reasons for believing
the thesis is true.
If the topic sentence isn't the opening sentence
of a body paragraph, it is most likely to be the last sentence.
Although mature writers don't always state their topic sentence,
they state it more often than not.
Paragraph development means elaborating on or
fleshing out the topic sentence.
In basic thesis and support writing, body paragraphs
have about three pieces of supporting evidence apiece. The basic
pattern for body paragraph writing is your standard five-paragraph
Teaching students to identify three, four, or five potential pieces
of evidence per body paragraph greatly increases the likelihood
that students will have material to develop their in support of
their topic sentences.
Body paragraph sentences should cohere
A body paragraph is more than just a series of sentences. If your
students use a working thesis, writing skeleton and outline
template, they have nearly all the sentences they need for the body
paragraphs of their papersbut they don't have a body paragraph.
The sentences need to be manipulated so that:
They cannot easily be separated.
They all clearly support the topic sentence (which supports
the paper's thesis).
The first paragraph writing goal is achieved by use of linking
devices. They are the glue that makes sentences
The second goal of clearly supporting the topic sentence is achieved
with two types of devices. The first device is a three-step strategy
that I call the evidence waltz.
Doing the evidence waltz assures that each bit of supporting evidence
is connected to the preceding idea and tied back to the topic sentence.
The second type of device used to show readers how a sentence in
the body paragraph relates to its topic sentence is a transition.
Transitional words and phrases function like road
signs to show readers how one idea is like or unlike the
Young students need to know basic
transition terms signaling changes in time or setting. Teen-age
and adult students need a more advanced list of transition
words that can express more complex relationships involving
Trying to separate sentences that have been built into a paragraph
is a bit like trying to remove the chocolate bar that you carried
all day in your jeans pocket: You can get it out, but it will show
where it's been.
Teach more paragraph development methods
In literary nonfiction, paragraphs may be developed using many
other devices than the evidence waltz. These devices include:
As with most other components of writing, teaching conclusion paragraph
writing is best done in short sessions at intervals scattered over
the year in hopes of catching students when they are ready to learn
how to wrap up their writing.
Informal writing uses shown
Learning, Reshape Teaching, I answer 24 questions teachers at all levels
and in all content areas ask about informal writing.
Using writing mechanics topics, the ebook
shows teachers how to use informal prompts to foster and monitor learning.
have an unusual reaction to the word "essay" - I love the word!
One of my main
goals is to communicate that love to my students. Perhaps at least one will
also learn to love essays. I would like to take all of them to "the next level"
with their writing.