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Writing can sometimes be a difficult subject to teach young students. I have found that when teaching a new concept, it’s good to break it down into several steps. I taught ESL students plus Gifted & Talented students in the same classroom for many years, and I found that most of them benefited from this. There will be some students who grasp the concept easily or may already have the concept in place, and those students need to move on to enrichment activities. But for those struggling with the concept of writing a paragraph, I have broken the concept down into smaller steps:
- PREREQUISITE: The students need to know how to write a sentence.
- DEFINITION: First, a child needs to understand the definition of a paragraph. When we say that we’re going to write a paragraph, they may have no concept of that. So, the first step is to explain and give examples of paragraphs. Here is how I might explain it: “Today, we’re going to learn about paragraphs. Can anyone tell me what a paragraph is? (I would say “good try” if they totally missed it, and if they got part of the answer then I would incorporate the correct part of their answer into my explanation.) A paragraph is a group of sentences that tell about one thing.”
- EXAMPLE: Let me share some paragraphs with you.
- Example of one paragraph: “Kim’s favorite thing was to spend time with her dog. She played with her dog every day after school. She fed her dog two times a day. In the afternoons, they would go for a walk together. Kim liked her dog a lot! Questions: What did Kim like? (her dog) What did she do with her dog? (played with it, fed it, went for a walk with it) What is the paragraph about? (Kim spending time with her dog) This is a paragraph with a group of sentences that tell about Kim and her dog.”
- Give example of a non-paragraph: “Now listen to this: Luke liked to play sports. The tree was green. The clock stopped working. Lions like to roar real loud. Questions: What is this about? (Luke, a tree, a clock, and lions) Is it a paragraph? (wait for answers) No, because it’s not about one thing. It’s about completely different things.”
- WRITE A PARAGRAPH TOGETHER: “Let’s write a paragraph together about our classroom.” Have students tell facts about the classroom and formulate a paragraph on the board using their answers.
- STUDENTS WRITE THEIR OWN PARAGRAPH: Have students pick something of interest to them and write a paragraph about just that one topic. Make suggestions for those students having trouble thinking of a topic. Walk around the room and help those students who are getting off topic.
Praise their work and find something positive to say about it. Make them feel proud and take ownership of their work. Those who are fearful of writing should eventually get to the point where they can write their own paragraph.