Teaching the 5 Paragraph Essay-Organizing-Part 2

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That’s not the Ketchup – Identifying the parts of a hamburger


by James Greenshields



You have your hamburger. You’ve explained it to your class, they kind of understand. They can see that it fits together, but something is missing (it’s not the ketchup). You need to guide your students into the initial steps of building the perfect burger. You can’t hand them the diagram and say, “let’s write introduction sentences”. If you do this, then you will be met with blank stares, frustrated brows, and the bright kid in the back saying this is easy. You need to simplify this process and teach your students how to identify each part of a paragraph.



Finding the Top Bun


Using worksheets lay out several short one paragraph essays. Have your students identify the topic sentence in each.  Circle it. Then choose two of the topic sentences to be rewritten in their own words. The following is a printable example that is tried, tested, and true.




Name:__________________                                             Date:_______________



Topic Sentences


Directions: Circle the topic sentence in each paragraph.


       Joe and Tom are good friends. They walk to school every morning. Afterschool, the boys ride their bikes and play games together. Sometimes, Joe and Tom sleep at each other’s house. The boys like to be together.

      This is how you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. First, you get two slices of bread. Then, you spread peanut butter on one slice of bread. Next, you spread jelly on the other slice of bread. Last, you put the two slices together and you eat.

      The best time of the year is Halloween. I like carving pumpkins and putting a candle inside. I always dress up as something scary. Last year I was a vampire. The best part of Halloween is the candy. You can walk door to door and say, “Trick or treat!” and everybody gives you candy. Halloween is so much fun.


Topic Sentence:_____________________________________________________________


Topic Sentence:_____________________________________________________________



Have you found success? This exercise shouldn’t have been too difficult. There might have been some grumbling about rewriting the Topic Sentences, and perhaps some copying of the original. That’s ok, although this printable is designed for student use it is also a good way for you to assess which students in your class can creatively come up with their own sentences.




Who took my Lettuce, Meat, and Tomato?


With the success of the Top Bun it is time to move on to the delicious bits; the details. Using a similar worksheet ask your students to identify the details in some short paragraphs. Then create a paragraph which is missing the details and have your students fill them in. This block of your paragraph foundation is meant to be serious but fun. Let your students come up with funny details. The goal is to make the details flow into each other, and actively support the topic sentence.


Directions: Read the following paragraphs and underline the details. In the last paragraph, write in your own details. Make sure they support the topic sentence.


    Dogs are wonderful pets. Dogs know how to do tricks. They love to run and play. Dogs are furry and cute. They love to lick you when you hug them. They are fun to have.


   Stars Language School is a great place to learn English. The teachers are well educated, patient and fun. The lessons are interesting and engaging. Students enjoy learning English here because they feel welcome and safe. Students are encouraged to read, speak and write. Stars Language School makes learning English fun.


    Billy and Mark are best friends and they are brothers.








Billy and Mark do everything together.




The Bottom Bun – It looks similar to the Top Bun, but tastes different



A common mistake teachers make is assuming that their students can rewrite a sentence using different words, but retain the same meaning. This is a daunting task for most students, but even more so for ESL learners. It doesn’t matters how many times you stress the ease of this exercise, the only way your students are going to learn it is to practice it.  I will cover writing the conclusion later in the series.

After completing the first two worksheets, your students should have pretty good idea of which parts of the paragraph are which. But it doesn’t hurt to over teach this concept. Using the previous worksheets ask your students to highlight the conclusions. This should be a very easy exercise, giving even your weakest students a vote of confidence.



Building the Burger – An Identification Game


The purpose of this game is to assess whether your students can identify the parts of a paragraph and accurately put them together to make sense. It is a group activity so it should reduce the stress on the individual.

You will need to prepare several paragraphs, typed in at least 18 print font. Color code them so that each paragraph is a different color.  Cut them into sentences and mix them up.

Prior to playing the game, explain to your students that in order to win the game, they will need to work together to form a paragraph from the strips.  You can take this a step further and ask your students to write out the completed paragraph.

Depending on the number of students in your class, divide your students into groups of threes or fours.

Play any white board game your class is used to. However, instead of awarding points award strips of paper. As more strips go out your students will start to form their paragraphs. When all of the strips have gone out, tell your students to make their paragraphs. The winning team is the team that has put together the most paragraphs accurately. 


Good Luck, and Happy Teaching!

In Part 3, I will explain teaching topic sentences.


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