Master the paragraph and you've mastered the essay. Good ideas can be made emphatically and clearly with well positioned, ordered, and developed paragraphs. These suggestions will help you write and teach better paragraph writing.
An Olympic Moment
I received this letter from a former student:
You may not remember me. I swam in high school and did pretty good. I got bored my sophomore year and decided to quit. My speedo, swim goggles, and cap were in my backpack and ready to turn in right after your class. You gave a lesson on methods of paragraph development, varying paragraph lengths, and using different ways to organize a paragraph. Your lessons on writing a paragraph changed my life. Instead of quitting, I varied the length of my swims and developed different swim strokes. I think you should share this gold medal winning lesson plan on writing a paragraph, methods of paragraph development, and varying paragraph length with the world.
Generalizations should exist only in the topic sentence. Each paragraph needs to make one point. If you're having trouble focusing on one main point, write a limiting sentence after the topic sentence to narrow the topic (see part 1).
Each paragraph should contain only one main idea.
Do not worry about transitions in the first draft.
Paragraph length varies. each paragraph must be long enough to cover your main point, anywhere from one sentence to one page. As with sentence length, varying paragraph length provides better rhythm and helps the author emphasize important points.
When writing paragraphs, knowing where to put each sentence clarifies important points. As a rule, the first sentence holds the strongest position, the last sentence holds the second strongest position, and the middle sentences hold the weakest position.
Varying sentence lengths helps emphasize your most important points. This is important. Putting one short sentence, for example, in between two long sentences, makes the middle sentence more powerful.
Writing Paragraphs Lesson Plans Procedures
For assignments not involving revision, try the following:
Instruct students to take notes on the above material.
Place students in groups of four.
Assign each group a topic.
Each person in the group should write about the topic using one of the aforementioned ways to organize a paragraph.
Students will decide which method of paragraph development is most effective, second most effective, etc.
Students will share at least one paragraph and explain why that method is most effective, making note of the type of writing used (persuasive, informational, narrative) and the purpose of the paragraph (persuade, entertain, or inform).
If you wish to use student drafts to teach about writing a paragraph, try the following:
Present the information above.
Instruct students to analyze each body paragraph of an essay by identifying the method of organization, the length of each paragraph, the number of main ideas per paragraph, the topic sentence of each paragraph, and whether or not the paragraph does its job.
Make necessary changes based on the above information.
If working in groups, have students analyze each other's paragraphs.