I remember writing reports in middle school. I remember enjoying the writing process—but I also remember turning in papers that were two pages long—but all one paragraph. Anybody else out there remember that?
I also remember the teacher giving my paper back to me and telling me to divide it into paragraphs. What I don’t remember is any lessons on paragraphs. I think those would have come in handy! 🙂
When new students come to my writing classes, the first “writing” problem they encounter is that of paragraph breaks. And I would expect no less. Paragraph breaking is difficult. We tell them that when they change topics, they should change paragraphs—but the entire paper is about the same topic! We tell them that each paragraph should be a unit of thought—but the whole paper feels like a unit of thought to them!
I love kids too much to leave them stuck in that continuous cycle of “I don’t know how to break my paper up into paragraphs!”
And the way I have gotten around that in my classes and all seventy of my books is to teach students to commit ahead of time as to what each paragraph will contain. Then they label each outlining space with each paragraph’s topic. Easy peasy. This approach works. (Check out two week samples of Meaningful Composition here to see how I use this outlining technique in all of my lessons.)
I have been enjoying Facebook Live and have gotten a lot of good feedback on my teaching videos. Thank-you for your encouragement!
So to demonstrate how to teach Paragraph Division, I created a video of me teaching this concept to some amazing fourth through sixth grade students. We had a lot of fun—and it clearly demonstrates how committing to each paragraph’s topic ahead of time really works!