I know, I just heard a collective *gasp* amongst you all.
Why? What? How? Huh?
I know traditionally we have all started teaching paragraph writing with the topic sentence. I mean, that is what the kids are going to actually write about, right? So why not start with it? Well, I find that if I start with the topic sentence, I get paragraphs that are either super short and bland, OR they are off topic because the supporting sentences don't actually match the topic sentence. How many times have you read a paragraph that started off with "My dog is white and sweet." and then started to veer off topic into other things about the dog? Using such a narrow topic sentence backs the kids into a corner they don't know how to get out of. So starting in the middle has been a successful way for me to get my students to write clear, coherent, broad paragraphs.
Let me show you how I do this with my students. Now, I am going to use my Paragraph of the Week to do this. Why? Because I use it in class with my kids. It is scaffolded and ready to go and makes my life waaaaaaaay easier, so the pictures you will see are going to be of that resource. You don't have to use it though. You can take these ideas and use regular paper and your own prompts no problem. I just personally like the POTW :)
Now that the student has everything he could possibly need to write about the subject at hand, I ask him to write one sentence talking about the topic. For example, if the subject is "Reasons cell phones should be banned in public places", the student might write:
Cell phones are a nuisance to all people except the one talking on it.
No one around the caller wants to hear what is being said as they don't know the other half of the conversation, causing unnecessary noise that bothers 99% of the people in the area.
That then becomes, as I like to call it, a "Detail/Explanation" combo. It helps the reader to see just what you mean with elaboration on the one detail. It gives more. It makes the writing a bit more interesting.
I ask my students to write three of these combos before they ever get to the topic sentence. The kids are sticking to the subject (banning cell phones) the entire time, but they aren't hindered by sticking to just one topic within that subject.
Once all three "Detail/Explanation" combos are written, the kids can then look at them holistically and decide upon a topic sentence that captures the essence of what is being said. The same goes for the conclusion sentence.
What tricks to writing paragraphs do you have? Please share them!