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Writing: Sentences & Paragraphs

The Parts of a Paragraph


Today's Snack: Let's build a sandwich, the way we build a paragraph. First, put a piece of bread on the cutting board. Then, put a piece of lunch meat on top. Put a blob of mayonnaise on top, if you like it. Next, put a piece of cheese on top of the lunch meat. Then blob some mustard on that, or more mayo. You can put some lettuce or sliced tomatoes on there if you'd like, and shake on some salt and pepper. Finally, top with another piece of bread. Slice in half, and eat! Enjoy with a glass of milk.




Wooden or cardboard blocks or small boxes

Scraps of 4 different colors of paper | pencil or marker

Scotch tape

A textbook



Words are the building blocks of sentences. Sentences are the building blocks of paragraphs.


In turn, paragraphs are the building blocks of any piece of writing, such as a report, a story, a letter, a book, and countless other formats.


A paragraph is a group of related sentences that are set off by a beginning indentation, a line of vertical space, or, as with After School Treats, both.


The basic writing element of the paragraph is a really important part of any piece of writing. There are certain parts of a paragraph that most of them will have. Not all of them! But most. There's a lot of variety. A paragraph may take up a whole page . . . or it may be just one word.




For most of the writing projects you will do in school, you will need to consider these four parts of a paragraph:


1. Topic Sentence


The main idea of the paragraph; it introduces or "opens up" the point of that paragraph


2. Supporting Details


These are the facts, figures, descriptions, stories, quotes, opinions and other ideas that develop, stretch, reveal, explore and "prove" the main idea of that paragraph.


3. Closing Sentence


The last sentence in a paragraph often briefly summarizes the paragraph, and links it to the next paragraph. If it is the last sentence of the last paragraph, it often will conclude the entire story or paper in an interesting way.


4. Transitions


These are linking words that connect one paragraph to another. Think of a linked chain: each oval links to the one before, and the one after. Transitions provide those connections. Your first paragraph in any story or report won't start with a transition, but middle paragraphs often start with a transition and end with one. Final paragraphs typically start with a summary word or phrase to lead to your conclusion.


Now, write those four parts of a paragraph on colored paper, and tape to a corresponding block. For example, tape "Topic Sentence" on red paper to a larger block or box, and tape "Supporting Details" on blue paper on three or four smaller blocks or boxes. Choose a different color and different-sized boxes for Closing Sentence and Transitions.


Now have someone in your group, or yourself, read a fairly long paragraph from a textbook. After you've read it or listened to it, "build" it with your blocks or boxes.


You can either lay them out to match the order that they were found in the paragraph, or actually build a tower or structure with them to represent how the paragraph was "built."


Now comes the fun part - knock it all down, and choose another paragraph to "build."


If you have enough blocks or boxes, you could "build" several paragraphs on the table or desk, to show how shorter paragraphs will have few blocks or boxes, and longer ones will have many more.



By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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