Teaching Paragraph Writing

Instructor: Sarah Wilson

Sarah has taught college composition and high school English. A PhD Candidate (English), she has an MA (English) and an MAT (secondary English ed).

Using published paragraphs as models in class can help students write stronger paragraphs through an examination of how authors utilize focus, organization, and evidence.

Paragraph Writing

Students learn how to write and revise paragraphs throughout their educational careers. As the content of their courses gains in sophistication, so, too, do their paragraphs. With a bit of tailoring to ability levels and course content, however, there are a number of pedagogical practices that can span across the K-12 and post-secondary curricula.

Published Paragraphs as Models

Using published paragraphs as models can help your students write stronger paragraphs
Open book with a magnifying glass

Perhaps the most overlooked practice for teaching paragraph writing is the examination of published paragraphs. Teachers often look at reading assignments in class to clarify concepts, but they much less often look at the assignments in terms of how the authors constructed the sentences and paragraphs. As a class or in small groups, students should examine paragraphs for what works and what does not work, turning the paragraphs into models, or examples of what to (not) do in their own paragraphs. Students start to understand a number of things: how and why topic sentences not only function but help readers follow the author's thoughts; how and when to use external evidence; and how and why transitions work within a given paragraph. When students see paragraphs at work in the 'real world' beyond their own written assignments, they often see the importance of this type of writing on much deeper levels. Modeling also allows students to see, at their own reading and writing levels, how authors construct paragraphs.

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