How to Teach Kids to Write a Paragraph

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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.
  1. 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.”
  2. 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.

Example of a Simple Book: I Want to Travel

Here is an example of a simple book (see explanation) I made with a four year old tutoring student who knew all his letter sounds.  He really enjoyed this activity.  With this book, we worked on additional skills such as learning the sight word “want.”   (This student was reading when he started kindergarten.)

Simple Book:  I WANT TO TRAVEL

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Teach Kids to Brainstorm

Brainstorming stretches the children’s minds.  This skill will be useful in something as simple as writing a sentence all the way to creative writing, in reading skills, in math, social studies and science skills, and also in higher level thinking skills.  It is used in problem solving and the creation of solutions.  Creative people brainstorm.   This will be a skill used throughout one’s life.

PART ONE – BRAINSTORMING FROM WHAT IS VISIBLE:

The first step in teaching children how to brainstorm is for the teacher to model brainstorming, show them how you yourself brainstorm.  Take something they can see such as one of their classmates.   Think out loud and write on the board everything about that student.  For example:

  • Her name is Sally.
  • She’s in first grade.
  • She has blonde hair.
  • She has long hair.
  • She’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
  • She wears glasses.
  • She has a big smile.
  • She has a picture of a dog on her T-shirt.

Another example would be to take a book, preferably a big book so all students can see easily.   If I had the book about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, then this is what I would write on the board from what we could see in the picture on the front of the book:

  • There are three bears.
  • One bear is really big.
  • One bear is little.
  • One bear is in-between size.
  • The bears are brown.
  • There is a girl.
  • She is little.
  • She has blonde hair.
  • She is wearing a dress.
  • Here dress is blue and red.
  • There is a house.
  • It has a door and two windows.
  • There are lots and lots of trees (a forest).
  • There are flowers beside the house.

After you have modeled for the students, then brainstorm together with the students.  After that, have the students practice brainstorming with a partner, then by themselves.