by James Greenshields
All right teachers, you’ve decided your students are ready to take their learning to the next level. They can already write well-structured sentences, and they’ve become quite good at writing creative stories filled with adjectives and superlatives. So, you find yourself asking, “What’s next? How can I teach them something that will prepare them for the future?”
The one paragraph essay is a building block in your students’ writing foundation. It takes time to learn the process. There is no quick fix to teaching the one paragraph essay. This series will take you through all the steps of teaching a one paragraph essay, from expectations to final copies.
All educational milestones come with a learning curve. In order to make a gentle curve for yourself and your students, you need to lower your initial expectations. Remember to set expectations for your students and for yourself. Don’t expect too much in the first class. Keep the lessons easy and simple to understand. Your students might feel overwhelmed, or pressure to turn out something really good. They might even get the first feelings of writer’s block. You don’t want them to give up. As a teacher, your expectation is for them to listen, and complete some simple writing exercises. You need to build and maintain their confidence throughout this learning curve. At the end of the lesson, you need to evaluate your teaching. Did all students understand? Was everyone able to complete the exercise sheets? If so, then you’re on the right track.
A basic paragraph has three parts: Introduction, Details, and a Conclusion. Think of a paragraph as a hamburger. The top bun is your introduction. This is your topic sentence. It will introduce your opinion, argument, or explanation. It will also list the three or more details you will discuss in your paragraph.
The lettuce, tomato, and meat (the delicious parts) are your details. Each detail supports your opinion as it links back to the topic sentence. By adding more details you make a stronger argument. Just like the more ingredients you add to your hamburger, the more delicious you make it.
The bottom bun is the conclusion. The conclusion wraps everything up and holds together the paragraph, just like the bottom bun hold together the hamburger (and stops your fingers from getting sticky). The conclusion doesn’t have to be complex. When teaching the basics, less is more. The conclusion is the restatement of your topic sentence, but in different words.
Your example paragraph looks like this:
Everyone should have a pet because they are fun, they make you happy, and they teach responsibility. I have a dog. His name is Tommy. He loves to play catch and pull on toys. When I am sad, Tommy comes into my room and lies with me. Sometimes he brings me his toys. I know he wants to play. When we play, we have fun and I forget to be sad. Tommy is not all fun and games. I have to take care of him too. I need to feed him, wash him, and take him outside to go to the bathroom. Tommy is a lot of fun, he always wants to play and make me happy, but having a pet is hard work.
In Part 2 of this series, I will explain teaching introduction, details, and conclusion identification.