Paragraphing

Students in Stage 1 use their knowledge of text features to structure longer written texts. In order to support the logical organisation of information students need to be able to use paragraphs to group like ideas and separate longer texts into appropriate segments.

Strategy

Explicit teaching

Students need to understand that sentences focussed on one idea or like ideas can be grouped together within a longer text to form paragraphs.

Paragraphs break up large blocks of text (visually as well as for meaning) so that the reader can easily follow and digest the information or ideas contained in persuasive, informative and imaginative texts.

At this stage students should learn to use paragraphs to group sentences about like ideas; separate different ideas; or, segment distinct parts of the text.

General strategies

Name, identify and explain the purpose of paragraphs in texts. Embed the terminology in your teaching to familiarise students with the paragraph as a text feature. For example, instead of asking ‘Who would like to read next?’ say ‘I read the first paragraph and I would like someone else to read the next paragraph.’

When reading shared texts in any learning areas or during guided reading, draw students attention to the use of paragraphs. Where possible prompt students before reading so that they can focus on that aspect during the reading.

E.g. The text on this page is organised in three paragraphs. As I read it, I want you to think about why the writing has been organised that way. I will ask you for your ideas after I have read it.

Explicitly teach students to plan and compose texts in paragraphs with a range of graphic organisers or text scaffolds appropriate to the learning area and subject matter.

Engage students with frequent experiences of reading and viewing texts organised with a range of text features. Invite students to comment on the organisation of text and ideas. Prompt students to consider what sentences can be grouped together and what happens if that grouping is changed.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: idea groupings (links to data in mathematics)

This is an interactive activity that aims to support students’ confidence for grouping ideas logically, in order to develop their use of paragraphs in writing. It can be facilitated whole class or with smaller groups.

  • State a question or topic on which all students will able to contribute an idea, e.g. What do you like best about school holidays?
  • Provide each student with a sticky note to record their idea.

  • Ask students to get into groups by finding students who have similar ideas (depending on the size of the group you may like to select a few students as group coordinators or directors and rotate this role).
  • Share the ideas and evaluate the rationale for groupings as a class.
  • Variation:Students place their sticky notes on the board for display and students are invited to have a go at organising 2-3 ideas at a time until most or all of the ideas are grouped.
  • Extension: Students use the ideas and the groupings to compose a text in response to the original question or topic using paragraphs.

Activity 2: paragraph reconstruction

This reconstruction exercise can be done as a modelled or guided whole class activity, in small groups or individually. It supports student understanding that grouping ideas logically is important to overall meaning. It can be adapted to suit any learning area:

  • use an example text of 2-3 paragraphs, deconstruct into sentences and jumble the sentence order (keep the punctuation intact).
  • provide students with the list of sentences or display on the IWB (students can cut and glue the sentences, number them, highlight them or write them in order to complete the task)
  • explain the text purpose and subject matter, e.g. This is an imaginative text about dragons.
  • Students need to try to reconstruct the original text by reading the sentences and organising them into likely paragraphs.
  • use a graphic organiser to differentiate the activity for your learning context, e.g. include the initial sentence or first few words for each paragraph, indicate paragraph length, include a few, some or most sentences to vary the amount to be reconstructed appropriate to student readiness.

References

Australian curriculum

ACELY1661: Creating texts: Create short imaginative and informative texts that show emerging use of appropriate text structure, sentence-level grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation and appropriate multimodal elements, for example illustrations and diagrams.

NSW syllabus

EN1-9B: Outcome 9: uses basic grammatical features, punctuation conventions and vocabulary appropriate to the type of text when responding to and composing texts  (EN1-9B) - Develop and apply contextual knowledge: understand that ideas in texts can be organised to enhance meaning using sentences and paragraphs

NSW literacy continuum

WRIC6M2: Aspects of writing, Cluster 6, Marker 2: Begins to use text features such as headings and paragraphs to organise information.

Teacher resources

  • TA related lesson resource focussed on strategies for identifying the main idea in a text for reading and comprehension www.scootle.edu.au
  • Adaptable learning activities to develop students understanding of different text structures, First Steps, Writing Resource Book (download as pdf): det.wa.edu.au
  • First Steps, Department of Education WA. (2013). Writing Resource Book. Western Australia: Author.

Student resources

  • A interactive game that will requires students to select appropriate parts of text to create a logical sequence of ideas: www.bbc.co.uk
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