A good topic sentence serves as a foundation for a good paragraph. A bad topic sentence serves as the foundation for most student writing. Let's change that now!
Yes, We Can
I had a very bright student long ago. Linguistically, he was amazing. Even linguistically gifted geniuses struggle with self esteem. Barry's verbal and public speaking skills amazed, which was why I was so surprised the day I saw him at lunch, head in hands, unwilling to say anything. I sat beside him and asked what was the problem.
"I'm stupid," he said
"No, you're not," I countered, "you're the smartest kid in the class and easily the best speaker. I see you being a great leader some day."
"But I can't even write a good topic sentence."
"It's the only thing you can't do. We'll remedy that tomorrow." I stayed late that night, preparing the best writing a good topic sentence lesson I could come up with. I'm not sure what happened to that student. I'll have to look him up. His real name was Barrack or something like that.
What Is a Topic Sentence?
The topic sentence contains the central idea around which a paragraph is developed. A good one has the following six characteristics:
- It introduces the topic of a paragraph without announcing it.
It hooks the reader.
- It plants questions in the readers' mind.
It uses thought-provoking words.
- It is usually the first sentence; however, it can occur anywhere in the paragraph or it can be implied.
- It provides a transition from the previous paragraph.
Not all topic sentences will contain every single characteristic. A writer should strive for the ideal; the ideal, however, is not always ideal.
- Have students read their rough draft or one of their previous essays.
- Instruct them to highlight each topic sentence.
- Identify which characteristics each topic sentence contains.
- Revise topic sentence.
- I find it best to practice some together first. You can come up with your own or steal mine:
1) Original: Columbus was an explorer in the 1400s.
Revision: Travel has changed since the days of Columbus.
2) Original: People waste time
Revision: Some pass time moving from one incomplete task to another, spending too little time with loved ones, investing too little time in physical and mental self-improvement, and treading water financially.
3) Original: I don't like diapers even though I love my children.
Revision: I love my children, but I hate changing their poopy diapers (especially when my dog runs off with it), but there's one diaper I didn't mind changing; ironically, it was the most difficult diaper-change ever, requiring 17 wipes and a blow torch.
4) Original: I had a very bright student long ago.
Revision: Even linguistically gifted geniuses struggle with self esteem.