by James Greenshields
Once your students understand that the topic sentence is always the first sentence it makes writing the paragraph much easier. When you have completed the identification of the topic sentence, it is time to put those excellent writing skills you have cultivated to good use. Prepare a worksheet that lists popular topics for your students. Make sure to keep them age appropriate so not to confuse or frustrate them. This is your class, so think of things they like, also, take into account which culture you are teaching. Some topics might make sense to North American students, but not to Taiwanese.
The following printable was used in a class for students aged 13-16.
The topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph.
Directions: Choose 6 main ideas and write a topic sentence for each.
The topic sentence can be taught in two ways; Simple and Detailed. Think of them as a sesame seed bun versus an olive baked ciabatta. Which one do you want to sink your teeth into? The Simple is very easy to write and open ended. All your students must do is to write a sentence that introduces their topic.
This topic can be supported through a variety reasons or details. It does not have to follow any plan. This is an easier topic sentence to write, but one that proves to be more difficult to transition into supportive details.
The Detailed topic sentence not only introduces your topic, but also lays the foundation for the rest of your students’ essays. This topic sentence requires more planning and is not open ended.
Through this topic sentence we learn that the author is going to write supportive details about how Chinese New Year is special for his/her family, what they do with their friends, and different ways to celebrate. This topic sentence is easily supported and follows a direct plan.
Although both topic sentences need to be taught, it is the second, more complex method that should be practiced. For the purpose of the above worksheet, instruct your students to write 3 Simple topic sentences, and then write 3 Detailed topic sentences. Before moving on to the details of the one paragraph essay I advise you to take two 30 minute sessions to teach the topic sentence. During the second session try to focus on the Detailed topic sentence.
Remember, you want to build the burger. Don’t set your expectations too high, so, it’s ok to start off with Mickey D’s but at this point you should start introduce your students to something more gourmet.
Good Luck, and Keep Cooking.
In Part 4, I will explain the details of the one paragraph essay.