StarTeaching Paragraph & Essay Writing

Single Paragraph Guidelines

Free Printable Sheet

1.  Prewrite
    A.  BRAINSTORM
       a.  Freewrite, math-write, science-write, etc.
       b.  Or List
       c.  Or WEB
       d.  Or Who, what, where, when, why
    B.  ORGANIZE
       a. Outline (very formal)
       b.  Or Chronological order
       c.  Or Order of IMPORTANCE

2.  Writing your paragraph
    A.  TOPIC SENTENCE (T.S)
       a.  Tells audience what you are going to tell them
       b.  Answers the given question or states your opinion
    B.  Three SUPPORTS for your Topic Sentence
       a.  Your support can be in the form of facts from a book
       b.  Or EXAMPLES (also quotes)
       c.  Or statistics
    C.  At least one PERSONAL LIFE EXPERIENCE (PLE)
            from your lives
       a.  Examples of things that happened to you
       b.  Stories, personal narratives, examples of things that
             happened to other people
    D.  CLINCHER STATEMENT (C.S)
       a.  Summarizes the paragraph
       b.  Or restates your answer to the question
       c.  Or restates your opinion
       d.  Many times includes a 'message for life' (a THEME)
At the 7th & 8th grade levels, students concentrate on understanding and practicing the FORM of the I.L. Paragraph.  This is done through the repetition of writing paragraphs and taking Outline quizzes on a weekly basis.

The Inland Lakes Paragraph is graded through FCAs, Focal Correction Areas, which are written at the top of the paper.
Each paper will have different FCAs for the writer to concentrate on.  This way the developing writers can focus on improving specific writing elements, one at at time.
At the 7th grade level, paragraphs will:
*  be at least 100 words in length
*  have FCA in the top left corner
*  have student's name at the top right
*  have a TITLE at the top center
*  Capitol Letters to begin every sentence
*  Punctuation to end each sentence

In the paragraph, students must also:
*  include 8 items of Brainstorming
*  demonstrate Organization
*  include a Personal Life Experience that
    is at least 2 sentences long.
*  underline the Topic Sentence
*  underline the Clincher Statement
At the 8th grade level, paragraphs will:
*  be at least 125 words in length
*  have FCA in the top left corner
*  have student's name at the top right
*  have a TITLE at the top center
*  Capitol Letters to begin every sentence
*  Punctuation to end each sentence

In the paragraph, students must also:
*  include 10 items of Brainstorming
*  demonstrate Organization
*  include a Personal Life Experience that
    is at least 2 sentences long.
*  underline the Topic Sentence
*  underline the Clincher Statement

 

 

 

ONE Paragraph Writing Worksheet 

Paragraph Writing Sheet                   Name:  ________________________________  Date:  _______________
                                  Topic:  __________________________________________________________________
FCAs:

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming & Organizing:

Topic Sentence:  _____________________________________________________________________________

  ___________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________

THREE SUPPORTS (facts/examples):                                             Details about each Support:

1.  _____________________________________________ ___________________________________________

2.  _____________________________________________  __________________________________________

3.  _____________________________________________  __________________________________________

Personal Life Experience:  ____________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Clincher Statement:  _________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Title for the paper:  _____________________________________________________

 

TWO Paragraph Guidelines

Free Printable Sheet

1.  Prewrite
    A.  BRAINSTORM
    B.  ORGANIZE
       a. Circle the TWO important points you are going to make

2.  Writing your FIRST paragraph
    A.  TOPIC SENTENCE(s)
       a.  Tells audience what you are going to tell them
       b.  Answers the given question or states your opinion
    B.  State your first and most important point
    C.  Three Supports for your first point
       a.  Your support can be in the form of facts from a book
       b.  Or examples (also quotes) or statistics
    D.  Transition Sentence to connect to the next paragraph
       a. Use a transition word (Next, Second, Then, Soon)
       b.  Use repetition (a word/phrase/idea/theme coming up in the next paragraph)

3.  Writing the SECOND paragraph
    A.  Transition Sentence to connect with the first paragraph
       a.  State your second point
       b.  Use a transition word or repetition from the first paragraph
    B.  Three Supports for your second point
       a.  More facts from a book, examples, quotes, or statistics
    C.  At least one Personal Life Experience (PLE) from your life
       a.  Examples of events that happened to you
       b.  Stories, personal narratives, examples of events that happened to other people
    D.  CLINCHER STATEMENT (C.S)
       a.  Summarizes the essay (both paragraphs)
       b.  Or restates your answer to the question
       c.  Or restates your opinion
       d.  Many times includes a 'message for life' (a THEME)

 

An Essay is an extended writing assignment which utilizes AT LEAST two (if not more) paragraphs.  These paragraphs work together to expand and discuss a topic with more specific detail and examples.  

The Inland Lakes Essay is graded through FCAs, Focal Correction Areas, which are written at the top of the paper.
Each paper will have different FCAs for the writer to concentrate on.  This way the developing writers can focus on improving specific writing elements, one at at time.
At the 7th grade level, paragraphs will:
*  be at least 100 words in length
*  have FCA in the top left corner
*  have student's name at the top right
*  have a TITLE at the top center
*  Capitol Letters to begin every sentence
*  Punctuation to end each sentence

In the paragraph, students must also:

*  include 8 items of Brainstorming
*  demonstrate Organization
*  include a Personal Life Experience that
    is at least 2 sentences long.
*  underline the Topic Sentence
*  underline the Clincher Statement
At the 8th grade level, paragraphs will:
*  be at least 125 words in length
*  have FCA in the top left corner
*  have student's name at the top right
*  have a TITLE at the top center
*  Capitol Letters to begin every sentence
*  Punctuation to end each sentence

In the paragraph, students must also:
*  include 10 items of Brainstorming
*  demonstrate Organization
*  include a Personal Life Experience that
    is at least 2 sentences long.
*  underline the Topic Sentence
*  underline the Clincher Statement

Writing Paragraphs

Writing paragraphs in our school's program means following a specific rubric. We teach the students to use the same format and steps. Paragraph writing for us means drafting, which will be full of mistakes and correctible areas. When first introduced, students will be practicing writing paragraphs every day until they master the format we use.

The first step is brainstorming. We require a specific number of 'triggers' for each topic. Students generally choose between making a web or a list to visually show their brainstorming. For example, our 7th graders must include eight triggers, while seniors must have at least fifteen. You and your school will decide what is appropriate. Then all triggers are ORGANIZED by order of importance, chronological order, etc. Students are asked to number the triggers 1-8. Of course, students are always encouraged to write down more triggers (sometimes we even offer extra credit for more triggers!). We also encourage students to freewrite as brainstorming. Students look over their prewriting and start using their organized triggers to form the ideas presented in the paragraph.

Students then create a topic sentence (T.S.). This is an introductory sentence which captures the reader's attention and gives the reader an idea of what the paragraph is about. We require students to restate the topic in the T. S. This begins to create flow (the connectedness of ideas and transitions) by using several words in the topic.

At least three body sentences follow (we require six in the 7th grade). These will include details and examples, as well as data in the form of facts or statistics. Make sure these all support the topic sentence. The body sentences also will include a personal life experience (PLE) which connects the topic to the writer's life or to a real-life situation (7th graders must have two sentences for each PLE). The body sentences must connect to the topic sentences, and be sure their details flow in a logical manner.

Finally, wrap up the paragraph with a CLINCHER STATEMENT. This again restates the topic, brings closure to the paragraph, and summarizes the ideas presented.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: How much time do we give students to write out a paragraph?

A: The paragraph structure was developed in response to the demands of the MEAP test (Michigan's high takes test) as well as to our own school's curriculum and class needs. We wanted a structure that could be easily learned and remembered (by both students and staff). It had to be versatile enough to use at any grade level or course. And it needed to allow for students to make it their own - we believe it promotes students' creativity, writing style, and voice while giving them a structure that nearly guarantees success. Thus, it had to be written in a fairly short span of time to allow for students to proof and edit. Brainstorming & organizing should take no more than five minutes (most of our students can do it in under a minute with practice!). The whole paragraph can be written in fifteen minutes or less (again with practice). We NEVER let these go home, and they're always due in class. Students cannot take their MEAP tests home to finish, remember! Time frames start out longer at first, but then we shorten the time as they become more proficient.

Q: How much do you worry about mistakes in spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc.?

A: Remember, this is drafting. We always encourage the students to be careful about what they write. However, we want them focusing on the structure and the logical flow of ideas. Corrections can be made if/when we revise and proof for a final copy.

Q: Does the PLE have to come at the end of the paragraph?

A: Certainly not! It should be inserted where it makes the most sense in the paragraph. Think about how that story will fit in the flow of ideas in the paragraph. PLEs can even occur in the beginning of the paragraph; we call these LEADS.

Q: Can a topic sentence or clincher be more than one sentence in length?

A: We try to keep these at one sentence in our younger grades, but as students become more mature writers, it is expected that they will attempt and experiment with developing their own personal style. If a middle school student asked about this, I'd ask back, "Why do you need more than one sentence?" If there is a compelling reason, I wouldn't have a problem.

 

 

Paragraph Writing Directions
On a PowerPoint You Can Use

Also a FREE note-taking worksheet for your students!

In the 7th grade, we've put together a Power Point we use with our students at the beginning of the year.  We call it the Inland Lakes Paragraph because we use it here at Inland Lakes Schools.  

Simply click the following link to access the Paragraph PowerPoint:

http://www.starteaching.com/ParagraphPowerPoint_files/frame.htm

 

You can also use the following note-taking worksheet with your students so they have a written record of the expectations of their writing (and you can be sure they are paying attention too!)

Paragraph PowerPoint Presentation               Name:  __________________________________
1.  At the 7th grade level, you must have at least __________________ words, which is about ________ lines or the space covered by your teacher's _______________

2.  If your teacher wants to know for sure how many words you've written, what will he/she do?

3.  What is in the UPPER RIGHT corner?  _______________________________

4.  What is in the TOP CENTER of the paper?  _______________________________

5.  What is in the UPPER LEFT corner?  ________________________________

6.  PREWRITING is two parts, the ____________________________ and the __________________________

7.  You must have at least 3 _________________, ___________________, or _______________________

8.  What does a CLINCHER STATEMENT do?

 

9.  What does FCA stand for?  ______________________________________________________

10.  How many points is a typical Paragraph worth?  ________________________

11.  List 3 different FCAs you could see on a paragraph:

_______________________________, ____________________________, __________________________

12.  What are 3 different ways to BRAINSTORM?  ________________, _________________, _____________

13.  What is a PERSONAL LIFE EXPERIENCE?

 

14.  A PLE is always at least _______________ sentences long.

15.  What does a TOPIC SENTENCE do?

 

16.  Often, a CLINCHER STATEMENT will contain a ___________________

17.  How many BRAINSTORMING items are required on every paper?  ___________________________

 

Writing Every Day in Class

For your students to be good at any skill, they must practice it on a daily basis. This is true for any skill, and writing is an excellent example. Regardless of whether your goal is to improve your students abilities, or to raise test scores, you need to structure and designate specific time to practice this skill every day. As the classroom instructor, it must be YOUR goal to have your students practice the skill daily.

Now, you don't have to spend your entire class period on writing. There are many activities you can use that take anywhere from five to ten minutes and will accomplish this goal of writing daily.

We should briefly describe the parts of the writing process, so we can then develop activities to improve each step. There are many different terms educators will use to name the parts of the writing process. Undoubtedly you have seen several different ways to name each step. Your school may even have a specific set of terminology you need to use. That's fine, especially if your students are hearing the same terms through different classes and grade levels. However you decide to designate each step of the writing process, there are several distinct parts.

The first is brainstorming and organizing information. This is the 'prewriting', thinking of topics and ideas about which the students will write. The second is drafting, writing out a first copy which we know will not be perfect but will need more work. The third is revising, adding in more information, changing information around, or removing information not pertinent to the topic. The fourth step is to proofread and edit for surface errors and mistakes. The last step is to rewrite the draft making the corrections from steps three and four. This last step may be another draft, or it may be a finished, published piece. Now, you may want to add more steps to these basic five, and that's up to you. You'll get no resistance from me. The important thing is to fully understand what you're teaching and to make sure your students understand it!

Before we get into activities, you will want to create a special, specific place for the students to keep their work. I choose to keep this work in class so I know it will ALWAYS be there. No more losing it in folders, at home, or in lockers. Each student is provided a hanging file in a cabinet drawer (each class gets its own drawer). If you do not have an extra file cabinet, you can pick up plastic storage crates or boxes fairy cheaply. When I want the students to work with previous writes, they simply need to grab one out of their file. And best of all, the work is already in class.

Ok, so lets examine a few exercises to practice at each step. First for brainstorming and organizing. This is one of the most important steps, and it can be practiced in any subject area. You are going to want to have your students practice this two to three times each week. Have your students brainstorm in lists, in graphic organizers, in webs/maps, and by freewriting. Give them topics and a time limit and turn them loose. Use ideas from your text, from reading activities, and from real life situations that involve your students. You can create games and contests to encourage them to generate long lists.

There are many ways to draft. We've covered several in past newsletters (see the links below for more information on each) including FREEWRITES, JOURNAL WRITES, and PARAGRAPHS. You will probably have other forms and styles to use too. Drafting does not have to take a long time, either. Give your students a specific time limit and the minimums you want them to write. Be very clear about your expectations and rules so the students will have clear understanding of what you're looking for. Feel free to impose minimums such as a time period, length of paper, or number of words. Remind yourself you are working with activities with shorter time slots. You want your students to really push themselves, and you may have to push them at the beginning to get them up to the speed you want!

Editing activities work well when your students already have several pieces finished to look over. You can have students edit their own, or peer edit by trading writings. I usually hold off for a month to collect enough drafts so students can choose their own writing to edit. Normally students like this step the least, and try to resist editing. So you will want to make this a fun activity, and be sure to give it a grade. I also try to give out extra credit so they will want to do these activities. We practice question writing with our SQ3R reading techniques, and we apply this to editing too. Some of the best editing is done by students posing questions, looking for more information, or needing clarification of ideas. This is not proofreading, remember! We use overheads (again so they can be re-used) with guiding questions and thoughts that will help students generate questions of the writing in front of them.

Undoubtedly you'll have a handful of students who think their first draft is perfect and needs no additional work. And you may even agree that some of these students are very good writers. But don't fall into the trap of letting them avoid editing. Even professional writers go through many stages of editing (as of this time, I've already edited this article four times!). Keep your kids following the writing process - no short cuts! Allowing one or more students to cut corners will lead to more asking, and then hard feelings among classmates ("Why doesnt so-and-so have to edit?") None of your students will be experts, none are perfect, even if you have seniors. There are always things you can adjust, clarify, or add to writings. And all of the students will benefit from good editing activities, whether they like it or not.

Another issue you will deal with at this step is a fragile student ego. Some students will fear having criticism of their work. And there will also be students who fear writing criticism on their classmates' papers. You will have to have some heart-to-heart talks with your students and convince them (or persuade them) that they are helping their classmates and themselves when editing. They're not there to rip on each other, just make everyone better writers.

Having your students write on a daily basis may seem like a homework-checking nightmare waiting to happen. You will need to create an administrative plan to make your life simple. In our class I use the random choices technique (discussed in length in the September issue.) A white chip indicates we don't grade it, just file it. A blue chip is a peer check and immediate grade. And a red chip is a collection of the papers so I can read and score them. This keeps me from having to read and grade every paper every day. And for paragraph drafts, we use FCAs (focal correction areas) for grades (look for more on FCAs in an upcoming issue!) These administrative strategies help keep my sanity while allowing my students to practice a lot of writing on a daily basis.

 

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