Teaching Paragraph Structure to ESL Students

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  • 0:04 What Is a Paragraph?
  • 0:32 Parts of a Paragraph
  • 1:32 Resources
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lesley King

Lesley has taught ESOL for many years, holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate degree in Instructional Leadership.

The purpose of this lesson is to share strategies to help English language learners create strong paragraphs. We'll also discuss some tips to help guide the paragraph writing process.

What Is a Paragraph?

Writing good paragraphs can be a challenge for some English as a second language students (ESL). To make this task easier, it helps to provide students with a clear understanding of just what a paragraph is.

A paragraph consists of three to five sentences written about one particular topic. After explaining the definition of a paragraph to students, show and discuss some examples. This will be especially helpful for English language learners who need the additional support of visual aids.

Parts of a Paragraph

A good paragraph always has a topic sentence. A topic sentence reveals the focus of a paragraph. In other words, it's the sentence that explains what a paragraph is mainly about. Be sure to explain to learners that, although the topic sentence is often the first sentence, it can be located anywhere in a paragraph.

In addition to a topic sentence, a paragraph should have supporting details. Supporting details are sentences that back up a topic sentence and strengthen its point. They also connect the topic sentence to other important points in a paragraph.

Finally, a paragraph should always include a clear conclusion. The conclusion is the sentence that brings a paragraph to a close. Explain to learners that concluding sentences are like the summary of a paragraph. They should be used with transition words that signify a clear ending is taking place. Here are some commonly used transition words for concluding sentences:

  1. To conclude
  2. To summarize
  3. Finally
  4. Overall
  5. Essentially


To help English language learners create strong paragraphs, consider their individual abilities. Some of them will need more support than others. For this reason, consider using graphic organizers. A graphic organizer is a visual tool designed to help learners find relationships among their thoughts. It can take the form of a web, chart, diagram, or list. Students can even make their own. Once students write down their thoughts and ideas on the organizer, they can decide how to order their sentences so that their paragraphs will flow.

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