Crafting better paragraphs can be fun and easy. Help kids remember the process with this new twist on the hamburger analogy. First, gather three or four closely related details. This is the meat of the sandwich. Second, slip the “meat” between the buns (topic sentence and conclusion). Third, add some cheese (elaboration). Fourth, pull your paragraph together with transitions. Fifth, squirt on saucy words. Finally, spice it up by combining related sentences and varying sentence beginnings. Bon appetit!
Six Steps to Crafting Better Paragraphs
Building a paragraph is like building a burger. Detail sentences support the topic sentence. The conclusion seals the deal and matches the topic sentence. Elaboration gives flavor and substance. Transitions move the reader along. Word choice spices it up.
If you want to be a better writing teacher, try writing yourself. As you write, consider the task. What is necessary for each step in the writing process? What parts are difficult? How long should each step take? When would some students need remediation?
Writing is a struggle. Doing it yourself provides a great model for your students. It also lets you walk in their shoes. Then you’re ready to teach it!
1. Gather three or four related details.
A paragraph needs a main idea, or a strong central message. All details need to support that main idea. They are the “meat” of the paragraph. In this example, all details are directly related to the origin of hamburgers in the United States. To create a stronger central message, all sentences focus on one possible origin: Hamburger Charlie of Wisconsin.
2. Generate a topic sentence and a conclusion.
The topic sentence states the main idea. It must clearly explain the central message. Notice how this topic sentence states that some people think Charles Nagreen created the first hamburger. The origin of the hamburger is debatable, but this paragraph sticks to one central message.
Finish the paragraph with a conclusion. It should support the main idea without being too similar to the topic sentence. The two “buns” (topic sentence and the conclusion) should match. After all, would you build a sandwich with a hamburger bun on top and a hot dog bun on the bottom? No, of course not.
Notice how this conclusion has been created with consideration for the detail sentences and elaboration.
Add extra details for clarification or elaboration. The “cheese” provides texture. It can clarify or provide finer points. The audience needs to know where Charlie invented the hamburger, as well as the reason for its name. Encourage kids to ask, “What else should the audience know?” and “What is necessary for the audience to fully understand?”
4. Add transitions.
Transition terms move the reader seamlessly from one idea to the next. These “condiments” provide relationships, conditions, etc.
5. Improve word choice.
Kids should replace boring words and use vocabulary that’s specific to the topic. Gather some great words then squirt them on!
6. Spice it up!
Get those sentences in order. To spice it up, make sure every sentence begins differently. As you work, continue to strengthen combining related sentences.
Building a better paragraph is messy work. It requires multiple steps and thoughtful organization. Children (and adults!) need to practice again and again to get it right.
Ta-Da! The Masterpiece Is Complete!
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