For kids, learning how to write a paragraph can be hard. Really hard. My kids read a ton everyday, so I figured this meant they had a pretty good understanding of what a paragraph entailed. I remember (years ago) when it came time to learn how to write a paragraph, I assigned them to write one about their favorite video game.
I assumed because they always had their nose buried in a book that it would be a breeze.
Y’all, it was a total train wreck.
Like, call in reinforcements because we’ve got a serious mess, here.
What do you mean indent the first line? What do you mean by topic sentence? What do you mean….
So we had a little work ahead of us. Here are a few of the tips and explanations I used to help my sons grasp just how to put a paragraph together.
Tip #1 for teaching how to write a paragraph: the cheeseburger method
The cheeseburger method of explaining how to write a paragraph, as well as the many variations on the cheeseburger method, have been around for quite awhile.
In food world with a decent cheeseburger, you’ve got a top bun, some meat and fixins, and a bottom bun. In writing world with a decent paragraph, you’ve got a…
Just as a great cheeseburger needs two buns and some good stuff in the middle, you need the same kind of things to make a great paragraph. And for my very visual and hungry boys, this was just the explanation they needed to start thinking about paragraphs in the right way.
(Note: As my sons got older, we started thinking about paragraphs as more of an upside down open-faced sandwich. Because in real life, if every paragraph had a conclusion sentence, reading would be very, very, repetitive.)
Tip #2 for teaching how to write a paragraph: helping kids figure out that pesky topic sentence.
Another surprise to me was how difficult the concept of a topic sentence was. Figuring out that topic sentence is (apparently) hard! It didn’t matter how I tried to explain it to my boys, they couldn’t quite grasp what I was getting at. So I wrote this on the board:
Is this a paragraph? I asked the boys.
They were confused because although it looked like a paragraph, they agreed that the actual sentences together didn’t make sense.
Yes, I said. Because when a paragraph starts out with I really like living on a farm, the following sentences should really be about…
Living on a farm! they both said.
Yep. That is because “I really like living on a farm” is a topic sentence.
Oh! I get it! they said.
(I literally saw the light bulb switch on over their heads. It was a beautiful moment.)
Now that we understood topic sentences, we wrote a real paragraph—with the topic and conclusions in blue and the “meaty details” in brown. 🙂
Tip #3 for teaching how to write a paragraph: putting mixed up sentences in order.
Just to see if the boys could put together their own paragraphs, I mixed up some sentences to see if they could identify the “buns” and the “meaty details”.
It’s always fun to figure out new ways to teach something, especially if it’s something that’s tricky to understand! (Check out another post of ours on a challenging part of teaching writing: Learning to Restate the Question.)