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After teaching students how to hook the reader with masterful leads, revise the middle for clarity and focus, and write and revise conclusions, I felt good about myself once again. I bragged to the administration at my school and nominated myself for teacher of the month. Then I reread their essays and realized they had no concept of paragraphing. In shock, I ran back to the front office and rescinded my teacher of the month self-nomination and cancelled my weekend trip to Santo Domingo.
I had work to do. I had to devise lesson plans about writing paragraphs or writing process lesson plans that helped students write and revise paragraphs more effectively. Here's what I came up with.
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- Write the following questions on the board: Are paragraphs necessary? Why do writers use paragraphs?
- Discuss the following answers: dialog, emphasizing a point, making transitions, developing an idea, keeping the readers' interest, a change in the action, a change in time, a change of setting.
- Instruct students to write the above reasons for a new paragraph. In addition, have them copy the following: "Paragraphs are a writer's building blocks made up of well-developed sentences with varied patterns, giving meaning and organization to writing." (This definition courtesy of Susan Geye, Minilessons for Revision)
- Explain when writing dialog, a new paragraph should begin with a new speaker.
- Inform students that good writers avoid overly long paragraphs.
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- Hand out magazines, newspapers, novels, or short stories and have students justify new paragraphs. This activity works effectively in groups of 3-4.
- Make copies of a writing sample without paragraphs and give one to each student. I generally copy and paste an item from something we are currently reading and get rid of paragraph indentations.
- Have students place the paragraph symbol where they believe a new paragraph should begin along with reason(s) why.
- Show students the original passage with paragraphs and have them compare the original paragraphing to their paragraph choices.
- Allow for discussion. Students may have legitimate reasons for wanting to place a paragraph in a particular spot.
- If using this lesson for a revision exercise, have students revisit their rough drafts and make necessary paragraph changes.
How to Revise Essays for Organization: Six Lesson Plans that Work
- A Lesson Plan on How to Hook Your Reader with Dynamite Leads
- Writing Lesson Plan in Making the Middle Clear and Concise
- Lesson Plan: How to Write an Effective Conclusion
- Lesson Plan: How to Write Effective Paragraphs
- A Lesson Plan on Writing Coherent Transitions
- Lesson Plan: Writing a Good Topic Sentence