For kids, learning how to write a paragraph can be hard. Really hard. My kids read a ton everyday, so I assumed this meant they had a pretty good understanding of what a paragraph entailed. I remember when it came time to learn how to write a paragraph, I assigned them to write one about their favorite video game.
It was a total train wreck.
What do you mean indent the first line? What do you mean by topic sentence? What do you mean….
So we had to do a few things. The first was introduce the cheeseburger method of paragraphs. (This has been around for quite awhile, so I wouldn’t have a clue who to attribute it to.)
With a cheeseburger, you’ve got a top bun, some meat and fixins, and a bottom bun. With a 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.)
Next, we had to figure out that pesky topic sentence. It didn’t matter how I tried to explain it to them, they couldn’t quite grasp it. 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!)
We wrote a real paragraph, with the topic and conclusions in blue and the “meaty details” in brown. 🙂
Just to see if the boys could put together their own paragraphs (but not writing yet), I mixed up some sentences to see if they could identify the “buns” and the “meaty details”.
It’s always fun to figure out fun ways to teach something, especially if it’s something that’s tricky to understand!