Teaching about Paragraphs

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Teaching about Paragraphs

Postby williamn » Sat Oct 27, 2007 4:27 am

I have two children, 11 and 9 that I am homeschooling. My 11 year old is a bit LD, so winds up they are both working at the same grade level. I trying to convey paragraph writing to them, and helping them through topic sentences, supporting sentences, and etc., and was wondering if anyone knows/has any downloadable handouts that might be good for practicing. I could also use some help in conveying this properly. Although I know how to do it, I'm having some difficulty bringing it to their level where they can understand. Thanks and God Bless
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3 KJV

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Re: Teaching about Paragraphs

Postby Ramona » Sat Oct 27, 2007 10:59 pm

I found a wonderful description of how to write in paragraphs in an old 12th-grade English textbook from 1897:

"There are two ways in which we may write an essay or any other kind of composition. One way is to write it sentence by sentence. A person who composes in this way usually begins writing before he has given his subject very much consideration. A sentence comes by chance into his mind. He [writes] it on the paper before him. The first sentence suggests a second, which also he writes down. The second suggests a third, the third a fourth, and so on to the end of the cmposition. This is one way, and a common way, of composing, but it is not a good way.

"A better way is to compose, not sentence by sentence, but sentence-group by sentence-group. When a writer composes in this way, he does not begin with a single sentence, but with a series or train of sentences. Before putting pen to paper he thinks out carefully the topics on which he [plans] to write, and arranges them in the order in which he [plans] to treat them. Then as soon as he takes up his pen to write, this is what happens: a succession of sentences or of ideas for sentences, bearing upon the topic to be treated first, pass rapidly through his mind. They seem to flow or to grow naturally out of the topic, as naturally as water flows from a spring or a vine grows from a seed. When he has written these sentences down, there arises in his mind another series of sentences upon a second topic; and this process goes on until the essay is completed....

"A good writer thinks a group of sentences upon one topic before he writes the separate sentences which go to make up the group. Such sentence-groups we...call paragraphs. A paragraph may be a whole composition, or it may be a part of a whole composition." (Composition-Rhetoric by Scott and Derney)

I like to teach my kids the method of drawing a "map" of thoughts on the topic. Write the topic in the middle of the paper. All around the topic, around the edges of the paper, jot down notes about separate thoughts related to the topic. Then use the "map" to write a grammatically correct and complete topic sentence (thesis sentence) to start the paragraph. Next, write a complete sentence for each of the notes surrounding the topic, put them in order, and voila--you have your paragraph.

For practice, I like Charlotte Mason's suggestions of writing assignments: "Write everything you know about [fill in the blank with whatever they studied yesterday or in the previous lesson]" is one of her and my favorites.


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Postby Theodore » Sun Oct 28, 2007 10:27 am

I've read that a good way to write is to just take 20 minutes and write down as much text about your subject as you can. Then read through the text, organize it into paragraphs, put the paragraphs into the correct order, and do any necessary rewrites to improve flow. This is good for when you really have no idea where to start and you're just sitting there staring at your keyboard :)

The other way is of course to outline what you want to say, then expand the outline into sections - but this assumes you're interested in the subject and already have a good idea what you're going to write. Why not just write from start to finish and do without the outline?

I've never had much personal success with outlines. When I have writer's block on an essay, I usually have writer's block on the outline as well. :) Maybe I'm just not a good writer.

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Postby Fran » Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:39 am

I've taught English for many years, and I have found a good way to ease into writing paragraphs fairly painlessly is to brainstorm information about a topic through freely writing down anything that comes into the head until there's nothing else left, deleting anything that is not appropriate for the topic, then loosely organizing the remaining into three (or two or however many) groups, one for each paragraph. After looking at the groupings, then it's easier to come up with topic sentences. (In the essay, it is also easier to create an introduction and conclusion after the groupings.) Most kids will look at brainstorming as fun and not the same sort of work outlining might be. Of course, they must have some guidance, not in the brainstorming part which should be free, but in the deletion and organizing into groups. Give it a try.

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paragraph writing

Postby milehimom » Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:56 am

I taught paragraph writing last month with my 2nd , 3rd, and 5th grader. We did narrative, persuasive, and descriptive paragraphs. Obviously, they all are at different levels of writing, but all of them needed a strong foundation in topic and concluding sentences.

We pulled out a bunch of old ZOO books and other magaizes like that (you could use the newspaper too, though I find reporters aren't the best examples!). I gave them each a highlighter and we went through and highlighted all the topic sentences we coudl find. Then we shared them and talked about what made good ones and what didn't. We then did the same with concluding sentences. This worked pretty well and gave them some ideas for theirs.

For each type of paragraph we worked on, I first wrote an example and shared it with them. This REALLY made an impression on them. For the persuasive paragraph, I wrote kind of a comical 'letter' to my husband asking him to get me something for Christmas that I KNEW he'd never get. But I hammed it up and buttered him up and had fun with it. I had the kids write theirs as a letter to us asking for something for Christmas! My 10 year old's paragraph about why we should buy her a cell phone was hysterical because she got so into persuading us (not going to work to get her one however!).

For our descriptive paragraph, they each picked their favorite spot in the backyard and were to describe everything they see (we live in the woods on acreage, so there's lots to choose from). We brainstormed first all the things we might write about - see, hear, smell etc and talked about how we'd begin and how we can use figurative language. THey turned out beautiful!

Hope that helps! I LOVE writing with my kids!
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

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