Paragraphing

Students at this stage can be expected to write paragraphs with three main parts:

  • a topic sentence which is the main idea of the paragraph.
  • supporting sentences which give details about the topic sentence.
  • a concluding sentence which summarises the paragraph.

Strategy

Explicit teaching

Teachers need to demonstrate how paragraphs have a topic sentence and that every other sentence in the paragraph provides more information about the topic sentence. Sentences could be arranged with: idea – elaboration, idea – evidence, or idea – example. All sentences have to relate to the main idea of the paragraph.

General strategies

Students need to be exposed to well-organised paragraphs to be able to write their own. Students can read a range of paragraphs and discuss which are good examples and why.

Paragraphs taken from student writing could be used to examine whether there is a topic sentence and whether each sentence in the paragraph expands on the topic sentence or is irrelevant.

Students can be provided with paragraphs from the targeted genre cut up into sentences and put them back together in a logical order.

Students can be given paragraphs missing topic sentences and asked to write their own or be provided topic sentences and asked to complete the paragraphs.

Time needs to be spent on teaching ways to plan for writing good paragraphs, and how to generate supporting ideas about a main idea. These skills should be practised regularly.

Activities to support the strategy

Traffic light strategy

  • Green – topic sentence.
  • Orange – supporting sentences.
  • Blue – concluding sentence.

Initially students could be given colour-coded sentences from two paragraphs and have to sort out the paragraphs and arrange the sentences in order.

Paragraph 1

  • Another reason children shouldn’t spend too much time on computers is that it stops them going outside and exercising, as well as playing with friends.
  • Everyone needs fresh air, sunshine and exercise and when kids are allowed to play on computers all day they miss out on being active.
  • They can become lazy and unfit which can lead to health problems.
  • For example, my teenage brother has poor posture because he sits hunched over a computer playing games for hours.
  • Children might also neglect their pets in the backyard, and friends in the neighbourhood, because they are so focused on getting a good score on a computer game.
  • They are therefore missing out on many opportunities to be active.

Paragraph 2

  • School children definitely shouldn’t be allowed to spend too much time inside playing on computers because their health and fitness will suffer.
  • Eating a healthy diet is also a vital part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • People of any age should eat a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as grains and protein.
  • Processed foods should be avoided because they contain a lot of preservatives, sugar and salt.
  • If people eat junk food too often they can become overweight and develop diseases like diabetes.
  • Schools should make sure healthy options are available at the school canteen and encourage students to bring healthy food for recess and lunch, not chips and lollies.
  • Children will have more energy and not get sick if they eat well.

Later they could do the same thing with a greater number of paragraphs or without colour coding.

Students could check their own paragraphs by highlight the topic sentences, supporting details or concluding sentences with green, yellow and pink highlighters to show all elements have been included.

The colours can be used as visual cues to remind students of the structure of paragraphs.

  • Topic sentence.
  • Supporting details.
  • Concluding sentence.

Graphic organisers for planning

Planning before writing will help students to include all the elements of a good paragraph.

  • Topic sentence.
  • One main idea.
  • Several supporting sentences.
  • Concluding sentence.

Before composing any text students can use a blank piece of paper to plan each body paragraph - a mind map. With practice they can learn not to rely on graphic organisers provided by the teacher.

Mind map

Centre of mind map "eat healthy food".

Supporting sentences/ideas:

  • Don't have salty snacks in the house.
  • Avoid junk food.
  • Eat fresh vegetables.
  • Limit sugary and fatty foods.
  • Don't eat too much.

T-chart

Students can use a t-chart to make sure they have some supporting details for their ideas. They can choose the arguments with the most supporting details to include in their text. If supporting details are lacking students will need to do more research, by reading or discussion with classmates or the teacher.

T-charts can also be used to generate ideas for both sides of the argument to help students choose the side they agree with.

T-chart example 1:

We need to solve the littering problem
Arguments Supporting details
The existing bins are not very good.
  • The bins have no lids.
  • Birds can pull out the rubbish.
  • The bins are very old.
Students do not put their rubbish in the bins.
  • Students are lazy.
  • There's not enough bins.
  • They rush off to play.
We use too much package.
  • The canteen sells a lot of junk in packets.
  • Students bring a lot of food with wrapping or packets for recess and lunch.

T-chart example 2:

Plastic bags
ProsCons
Shops usually supply them for free. They can be washed into rivers and the ocean.
You can use them to store unwanted items. They don't break down for a very long time.

Fishbone or herringbone diagram

Students can plan their paragraphs listing main ideas and supporting details on a fishbone diagram or be given a completed diagram and asked to write the paragraphs outlined.

Sorting sentences

Students sort sentences under the correct paragraph opener or topic sentence.

References

Australian curriculum

ACELY1704: Creating texts: Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive print and multimodal texts, choosing text structures, language features, images and sound appropriate to purpose and audience.

NSW literacy continuum

WRIC11M6: Aspects of writing, Cluster 11, Marker 6: Uses topic sentences and appropriately organises main and subordinate ideas.

Teacher resources

Graphic organisers

Student resources

Return to top of page