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Writing Paragraphs

Compiled By: Meggin

Can your students write paragraphs that include a topic sentence, supporting details, and a concluding sentence? Use these ideas to teach your students the art of writing paragraphs.

Posted by: Robin HB

I've just started talking about paragraphs with my kids. We began by looking at a simple paragraph (clear topic @ topic sentence) and discussed the three main elements (indentation, topic sentence, group of sentences about that main idea). I then gave students a graphic organizer with five circles - the main idea in the center, other stemming from it. They then picked a topic, jotted it in the center, and wrote ideas related to it in the other sections of the web. Then they just needed to put it all together, making complete sentences out of their notes and writing it out in paragraph form.

Posted by: minnie

Hello...I'm teaching how to write paragraphs in my second grade class right now. I basically try to teach them that they need a topic sentence, body sentences, and a closing sentence. I have a worksheet that I like to use which compares the paragraph to a bologna bread is the topic sentence, bologna and toppings is the body of the paragraph, and the last slice of bread is the closing sentence. Before we actually go into comparing the two I like to ask what each student would put on their sandwich. Then when we do the comparision we talk about the fact that each person like different things on their sandwich, so each paragraph is going to be different. If you can get all of the details in three sentences (or you just eat bread and bologna) it is okay--just make sure that is all you want to say to get your point across.

Posted by: Bonnie

I have taught 3rd grade for the last 3 years. The tricks that I use for my students to indent is I have then fill in 3 trees for their prewriting ideas. The trunk of the tree represents the topic sentence and then they write 4 descriptive sentences in the leafy part of the tree. The students know that each completed tree represents a paragraph. I then tell the kids that each time they write using a different tree then they need to indent 3 finger spaces OR dock your boat. You use you thumb and index finger and place the piece of paper in between those fingers and you have docked you boat. My students love this and they seem to really understand the concept of writing in paragraph form. If you want I can fax you over a sample of the tree. Let me know.

5 fingers paragraphs
Posted by: sj

I have my kids hold up their hand and tell them it is their guide to writing a paragraph. The thumb is the topic, then tell-tell-tell (supporting ideas), and thinky-pinky(the conclusion.)My kids can pretty well chant Topic, Tell, Tell, Tell, Think as the outline for their paragraphs. I sometimes have them draw around their hands and write their paragraph or plan on the thumb and fingers. I like it because they always have the format for a paragraph in hand! (Sorry--just had to!)

paragraph writing
Posted by: Jackie

I have the students write the following down the margin of their papers-
T_______(we write the topic of the paragraph here)
I____(which I tell them stands for indent),
SLM_____(which stands for straight left margin),
MIS_____(main idea sentence, which I explain that I want to be the first sentence of their paragraph,)
SD_____(which stands for supporting details, they must have 3 but I love 5)
CS (which stands for closing sentence,I tell them the CS is not a detail, it goes back up and talks about the topic)
Later on I change the CS to a H which stands for hook, as in hooking 2 paragraphs together.
I tell them learning to write a good paragraph is like learning to cook. We start out with a recipe. This is their recipe for paragraph writing. When I grade their paragraphs I check off what they have done correctly. One of our fourth grade teachers tells me she always knows the kids I had the year before because they know how to write a good paragraph

Try a paragraph frame
Posted by: BN

I don't have any sample paragraghs but
have you tried using a paragraph frame to start.
First we brainstorm topics-- more recess time,
more time between classes, lockers, different menu in cafe, allowing music/radio during lunch, more library books etc. We try to think of topics that are of interest to grade five students.We write to persuade the prinipal, teachers,parents of some topic that concerns them. Two impt. concepts about persuasive paragraphs that students find difficult are--#1 a topic that can be supported with facts/examples or reason and #2 writing to a specific audience. I remind them that they are writing to persuade or convince someone of their POV. In order to do this they need facts and examples to back up their POV.

Then,we compose a class paragraph by filling in the frame.

Persuasive paragragh frame ( I have a transparency)

I believe that...

One reason is...

For example...

Another reason is...*

For example..*. *(More can be added if needed)


Therefore, I think that...

For individual paragraphs you can use the frame or a persuasive map...

Persuasive Map
(sample transparency)

Goal or Opinion

Reason Reason Reason
__________ _________ _________
__________ _________ _________
_______ __________ _________

Support (EX) Support(EX) Support(EX)
___________ ____________ ___________
____________ ____________ ____________
___________ __________ ___________


Therefore, I think that...

Frames and maps are good techniques to get students thinking about trying to persuade or explaining their points of view.

thank you!
Posted by: Katsmom

I appreciated your suggestions and web site referrals. I pulled one from one of the websites where 1st para. had children explaining getting a superpower: how they got it, what it is, and how it works. The 2nd para. was them describing an event where they were able to help using their superpower. This worked very well. I printed off a superhero graphic from the computer and glued little photos of their faces on the superhero and posted each of their stories in the hall with their faces. It went really great. Thanks to all of you!

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Posted by: Michele

I teach a 3/4 split, and highly recommend Step-Up to Writing as a program. It is AWESOME, and starts kids writing paragraphs then move on to essays. It is really concrete, and easy for most students to understand (and succeed with). I know they have a website and they do seminars too.

I can give you a general overview the steps I have my 3/4 graders do. We begin with sentence structure, making sure students know how to write a correct sentence, then move onto paragraphs. The program uses colors to represent the parts of a paragraph, green (topic sentences), yellow (fact/detail senteces, and red (examples), green (conclusion sentence). Students begin organizing other paragraphs and highlighting the organizational piece, then begin creating their own. Later, we move into essays (middle 3rd grade), and that is when I introduce the different types of writing. I have students work in a writing workshop twice a week for 45 minutes, and usually have a mini-lesson at the beginning with a minimum of 30 minutes actual writing time. Once we are writing essays, they finish one, score it (ORegon's scoring guide), turn it in, and begin a different type of essay. Then I score it as quickly as possible, and we meet to discuss their score and what they need to work on to do better.

Hope this helps....I am sorry about any mistakes, My kids are starting to whine!!


persuasive writing essays
Posted by: Carolyn

Some writing elements:

I teach fifth grade, so my students are required to write at least five well-developed paragraphs of five sentences per paragraph. In third grade, however, you might just want them to start out with a single paragraph. When I introduce persuasive writing, that's all I expect them to do. My students' current writing assignment is persuasive.

For your kids, you might try the following:

Writing has:
1. a title. (I teach fifth grade, and it's amazing how many forget this!)
2. an introduction which states what the writer is trying to persuade the reader to do. (Mom and Dad, I am getting older now, and I believe that it's time for me to have an allowance.)
3. several opinion statements relating to the persuasion (I have become responsible, want to save money, etc.)
4. a conclusion (introduction restated) (After all that I've said, don't you think I should have more allowance?)
5. evidence of editing (capital letters, punctuation, etc.)

Start out with an idea which they may feel passionate about. My students' persuasive writing this week focuses upon "Why I Should Receive More Allowance." Write up an example of what you want your kids to do, then make an overhead of it. Ask THEM to identify what you have done to persuade:What is the purpose of the first sentence? How many reasons do I give? How does the writing end?

If you need some topic ideas, I have a lot.

5-10 min. lesson
Posted by: Juli

Here's a writing project that I have used at the beginning of the school year with my students:
I have a small brown bag with three objects that represent me. I have a chart paper up with an intro paragraph, three paragraphs describing each object, and a closing paragraph restating beginning and telling students I am looking forward to the school year and finding out about them. As I read the paragraphs, I take out the objects one at a time to show class. After I have shared my bag, I give each child a brown bag with a note attached explaining that we will be working on a writing project in class and what to bring. I state that everything must fit in the bag, not be breakable or of extreme value. Pictures can take the place of items that won't fit in the bag or that are of people or pets.
Good Luck!

Posted by: Cathy-Dee

A program I worked with called Blended-Sight Sound has a great component for research writing. I'll try to explain it here, but email me if it doesn't make sense to you.

Basically the program helps children learn how to write a research report and avoid plagarism. Most children simply copy full sentences from books as it is difficult for them to figure out how to write the information in their own words. This is how the system works.

You would start with introducing this type of writing via a short paragraph. Then moving into books, etc., I would do the first 2 or 3 together and then one on their own.

Children would have a paragraph to work from.
They would write down the heading - Lions
then they would write down numbers 1 to 6 (this can be any amount of numbers, but it is better to limit them at first to no more than 6 sentences).

Then as they read the paragraph they can write down 3 main words from each sentence beside each number. (I sometimes allowed 4 words).

So a paragraph like this for example.

Lions are usually found in open habitats such as grassy plains, arid woodlands, and semi-desert.
Lions usually kill prey larger than themselves, such as zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo but will also take smaller antelopes and warthogs. Lions will eat carrion and often steal carcasses from other predators such as hyenas, cheetahs, and wild dogs.

Would look like this after the children do their initial sentences.

1. found, plains, woodlands, semi-desert.
2. kill, zebra, antelopes
3. eat, carrion, steal

Then the children hand in their work. The next day they get back this form and now they are to write their own sentences using the words. What happens is they have the information, but not all the words so they do write the information using their language base. As well it teaches them to look for important facts. If they had chosen words such as in sentence #2, kill, prey, larger (they now have less information to work with). They also learn not to write down words like, and, is, etc., as those are not informative words either.

Once they have this process down, then I showed them how to make several sections which would be their paragraphs.
Where they live
Food they eat
How they survive
The young

Then as they read different books, they simply add sentences under each section (using the 3-4 word method). Once done they can rewrite all the words into their own sentences and paragraphs. As they work through the process they will learn as well that they do not have to use every word they wrote down either. And they can write down other things they just remember from their reading.

It's a neat system and works even better if all the classes from grades 2 upwards do the same system. Then you can just expand on the process as they get older.

Hope this all makes sense.

try non-fiction
Posted by: cindyteacher

Have your students write non-fiction texts. They lend nicely to three or five paragraphs which is what my 3rd graders are doing.

Persuasive Writing: Pick a topic (ex: I should be allowed to watch tv everyday). Introduction (1st paragraph), 1st reason and fact/example, 2nd reason and fact/example, 3rd reason and fact/example, closing paragraph.

Procedural Writing: Introduction, List of Materials, Steps, Closing Paragraph -(only 4 paragraphs)

Pamphlet Writing

Reviews (book reviews,movie reviews)


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descriptive paragraphs
Posted by: Jan

I teach 2nd grade and just taught these lessons this week. The first idea I used as intro -using an observation chart. I put the kids in groups and placed a plate with one potato chip for each group. One group had to write all the words or phrases they could think of about what they saw. The next group had to write about what they could hear(Smashed chips!) The next group had to tell how it smelled and the last group had to tell how it felt. We wrote all their thoughts on a chart. I threw those chips away then past our chips to taste. Each group had to think of how it tasted. We then made sentences. I wrote a main idea sentence and their sentences were details. They loved the eating and the words were very descriptive.
The next task was for them to brainstorm ideas on their own. They closed their eyes and thought about sitting in their backyard. They had to write down what they would see, hear, feel, and smell. We talked about taste but it was optional. They are writing their descriptive paragraphs tomorrow. From their lists of things they wrote, they should be great.

Meaningful Sentences
Posted by: Kelly

Although I really don't enjoy doing it or grading it, once a week in my class we work on a meaningful sentence with a chosen word. For example: on Monday we choose an unfamiliar word from one of our stories or subject areas and find the defintion and two synonyms. on Tuesday we write a "skeleton" sentence, using the word correctly but with no detail. on Wednesday we go back and add at least three sensory details. On Thursday we work with our partner to answer any questions our sentence might leave and add those details or take out previously added details that do not make sense. On Friday we edit and write a final draft of a meaningful sentence that creates a mind movie. Each phase takes only about 5 minutes a day, but it models for the entire class each week what a good descriptive sentence sounds like and also allows each child to write a quality sentence once a week. When we write paragraphs (which is about as far as we go) we decide as a class, how many "meaningful sentences" it takes to make up the paragraph. Later I make overheads of their paragraphs and we discuss if the paragraph is composed of meaningful sentences that all blend together to expand on one big idea. THis works pretty well in my class (without spending a lot of time on it, because kids find writing boring) hope it helps.

Posted by: Miller

The 3 paragraph is easy b/c it's beginning, middle and end. Maybe you could do the first paragrah tells the whole story and the 2nd paragraph tells a summary.

You could create a 2 part prompt like. Tell about a time you went to the zoo and an animal escaped. What did your family and friends do?

That's a bad prompt, but something that has 2 parts. I can upload a graphic organizer I used for a 3 paragraph one. We also started using a hook.

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Posted by: KimW

I would love to teach writing. In every class I've ever had, I've always assigned a research report. You need to be sure that the students are working with a specific topic. To do this, draw an upside-down pyramid with four equal divisions. The top division should be a very broad topic like animals. In the second division the student should decide what type of animals they want to research - we'll say reptile. In the third division, the student decides what type of reptile, let's say rattlesnake. In the point of the pyramid, we put the most specific, narrowed topic. This may have to be filled in after the student looks at the different rattlesnakes. They can then decide which rattlesnake to do their research on, say Diamondback Rattlesnake. This makes the researching more challenging because they can't stop looking when they see "rattlesnake"; they have to read the article to see if it says anything about Diamondback Rattlesnakes. It is really fun and students learn how to really research and they learn that there are different kinds of panthers and wolves and eagles. I did this with a 6th grade and it really is amazing to see some of the animals they can find when made to really search. Many students think that a research paper is opening an encyclopedia and copying the words. But with this assignment they had to search for their very specific animal. They had to look in three different sources, most used the encyclopedia, a book on their animal or species, and the Internet. When they found anything about their animal, they had to take notes. After taking notes from all three sources, they had to organize all like notes into categories that answered questions like size of animal, where does it live, how does it survive, etc. After they categorized thier notes, they made an outline. Introduction (one paragraph); body (three paragraphs - one describes animal in color, size and shape,where it lives; second paragraph told what the animal ate, how it killed its prey, etc; the third paragraph was reserved for anything interesting that the student wanted to put in);the last paragraph was a conclusion. Students then wrote paragraphs to answer these questions. Next we exchanged paragraphs with a partner who proofread it. Then we wrote each of the 5 paragraphs on an index card(one paragraph for each card - color coded). I then checked the cards. We then wrote a rough draft from the cards. Partners checked this as did I. Finally students handed in a typed final draft with a picture from their animal. The student enjoyed it and they actually asked if they could do another! E-mail me if you have any questions.

Topic sentences
Posted by: Heidi

I did an activitiy that worked well. It took a bit of time to prepare the materials for it, but once they're ready you can save them and use them another year. I photocopied one paragraph from several different novels in our class library. I tired to choose paragraphs with a good topic sentence. I cut the topic sentences off the paragraph and glued them onto coloured paper. I glued the body of the paragraph to coloured paper too. I laminated my pages before giving them to kids bbecasue it was soooo time consuming. Each group's pages were colour coded so I had a blue team (all the topics and bodies were on blue), a red team, etc. Each team had the same 8 paragraphs to sort through and figure out which topic sentence went with which body paragraph.

My principal especially liked that I assigned groups of 4 and told them nobody could move until I said go, since they all had to hear the instructions. I explained who was to work together and what corner of the room they would use. I even sent a group out to use the hall just outside my door because they really need to spread out to sort them.

Students were engaged in reading the paragraphs and worked cooperatively to explore the topic sentences. It drove home the point that good writers make their topic sentences then fill the body of a paragraph with deatils that support that topic, so it is easy to identify which goes with which.

It took about 20 minutes for the kids to do the matching, not including my time giving instructions.

The kids in my room are used to workign in groups.

file cards
Posted by: pjm

I had a group of very low students one year with a similar assignment. What I did was type up a requirement for them to follow. something like this
you need 5 paragraphs
1. name of state, capital city and population
2. major lakes or rivers
3 geography of the state (low lands, plains state etc)
4 places of interest
5 closing paragraph
then I gave the kids 5 file cards and had them number them 1 - 5. we began research even though they still had no idea how to write the paragraph. On file card 1 I had them write a complete sentence that say something like I am researching the state of Maine. then I had them look up the capital city and write that in a sentence....and finally the population. Then I told the kids that they had written their first paragraph....the kids were amazed. We did this with each of the file cards and they wrote a passable paragraph. Was it great no but it did build their confidence and they decided that they could write paragraphs. Yes it is very basic but with these low kids that's where you need to begin.

Main Idea
Posted by: Misty

I have one idea that really helped my kids on Main idea. I found a blackline of a big umbrella. I gave them several copies. I copied a few pages with good, clear paragraphs from our current reading. (enlarged works best) We found the main idea and put it on the top part of the umbrella and the details hang down from the umbrella. One we got the hang of it, We used the umbrella for help and pated them on a seperate sheet and wrote main idea or detail beside it. To take it further I found paragraphs that have a out of place detail, then they had to find which one didn't fit. We call that the rain because it it outside the main idea. I used the analogy of the umbrella being the main idea and the details are covered by it. I hoope this makes sense--e-mail me if you nee more explanation. I also have a template at home I can send you.

two paragraph writing prompts
Posted by: Kat's Mom

Our third grade team has decided that we need to "kick things up a notch" when teaching paragraph writing because at this point, we were requiring our third graders to write ONE fully detailed paragraph. However, the 4th gr. teacher require THREE paragraphs, so we decided we need to bridge that transition by teaching students to write TWO fully detailed paragraphs. My problem is that I am having difficulty coming up with prompts that directly lend themselves to a two paragraph response. This is the one I have for this week: You have just woken up and discovered that you have become a wild animal. In one paragraph, explain what animal you've become and describe in detail what you look like. In a second paragraph, describe an adventure you go on as that animal. Use many details to explain your experiences.
We are trying to be explicit in explaining to the children what to write in ea. paragraph, as this 2 para. thing is new to them. Any prompts you can share or think of would be MOST APPRECIATED! Thank you!

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Step-Up to Writing
Posted by: Michele

Let's see...the program is really pretty easy. I start my third graders out by defining the basic types of sentences the program uses...Topic sentence, Facts, and Conclusion (which is just re-writing the topic sentence.) We discuss these, and I write different sentences on chart paper and the kids tell me whether the sentence is a topic or a fact. Then we move on to a simple 5 sentence paragraph. I use one that I write on chart strips and the kids help me put it in order, Topic, fact, fact, fact, conclusion. Then the kids do a different one in groups, then finally on their own. The program color codes the sentences so the Topic and Conclusion sentences are red, the Facts are green, and the description/detail sentences are yellow (I wait a week or so to introduct those, but when I do, I start from scratch again.) I color code the different sentences, so I can quikly see whether they have organized the sentences correctly.

When they have organizing down, we begin writing paragraphs. I just usually start with simple topics like favorite sports, pets, etc. Another third grade teacher starts them writing on colored paper which they cut and paste in order, I don't generally do that, I have made special lined paper with Topic, Fact, Fact, Fact, Conclusion written down the side. They seem to do alright with that.

Once we have written a few of the basic 5 sentence paragraphs (and I do have them indent them!) I introduce detail sentences. this is where it gets confusing for them, and so I made strips of lines paper with Fact on one line and Detail/Desctription on another line. Each one is separate and I have them cut and paste it to create their paragraphs, then re-write it on another piece of paper.

Once they have learned the basic format I change it around to fit what ever I need them to do.

As for conclusions...I know that there are quite a few,but I'm sorry I can't recall off the top of my head. I am back to school on Aug. 19th, so I'll look and post then. Sorry!! :o)

Posted by: NCteacher

My 3rd graders are required to write 3 paragraphs, and we are now slowly working toward 5. For one assignment, I printed a coloring sheet of a cat- just a simple one, but I copied it on ledger size paper. The kids happily spend 1 whole writing period coloring, creating a background, "pimping" their cats! (vampire fangs, robot name it!) Then the next day they wrote a story about the cat- they were some of the best stories I have gotten all year! Great descriptions and details- I think the visual helped them. Of course, that is not writing to a prompt. One prompt they loved was when they wrote about having a super power- they did really well with that one as well. I don't know what the k-2 teachers have done with these kids, but 90% of the time, they LOVE to write and especially share! It is wonderful- not perfect or anything, but the enthusiasm is there, and I think that a lot of the time, that matters the most.

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