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Teaching Paragraph Writing to Your Students

By Margie

One of the most important skills a writer needs is the ability to write a solid paragraph. Good paragraph writing is a skill that must be taught, just like any other concept.

How to Write a Paragraph

Pens Markers and More While some students have no trouble writing a succinct paragraph with one main idea, many others struggle with the concept.Sometimes students want to get all their ideas down so quickly that they forget to stop and think about what belongs where.To help these students with this, it is a good idea to provide a concrete model for them to follow.

To begin, when teaching paragraph writing, it is best to keep it as simple as possible.As students' writing skills improve and their confidence grows, you can begin to introduce more complex ideas to their paragraph writing.

1) First, make sure they understand that a paragraph contains only one main idea.

One Paragraph = One Idea

When students truly understand this, they will be able to write a strong paragraph.

2) Explain that the paragraph should have a topic sentence.This is the sentence that will explain what the paragraph is mainly about; it is the sentence that tells the readers what the main idea of the paragraph is.For instance, pretend that students are writing about the recent presidential inauguration.

An example of a topic sentence might be….

On January 20, 2009, Barack H. Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

3) After they have written their topic sentence, they must support that sentence.They do this through supporting details. I usually require three supporting details in each paragraph. These are sentences that expound on the topic sentence.

An example might be…

He is the first African American to be elected to the nation’s highest office.

4) They should end their paragraph with a conclusion.The conclusion should take into account the topic sentence and supporting details.

I tell my students that an easy way to do this is to combine something they learned in the paragraph with an introduction to the following paragraph.

An example might be…

Now, President Barack Obama must prepare to lead our nation through the challenges of the coming years.

5) I like to use graphic organizers to help my students organize their thoughts.There are many samples on the web from which you can choose; I like the Houflin Brace Harcourt organizer. There's another good one on Angelfire or you can create your own.

Teaching paragraph writing by breaking it into parts will improve students’ writing abilities, which will boost their self-esteem.When you break paragraph writing into small parts it is more manageable and less intimidating.

Depending on the skill level of your students, you may want to work on one element a day or week.For example, work on crafting a really good topic sentence before moving on to the supporting details and the conclusion.After you have guided students through each element, they will have created strong sentences which they will then combine to create a high-quality paragraph. Be sure to work through the elements of the writing process as you write in order for your students to achieve the highest quality writing possible.