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Writing a Paragraph: Teaching Tips for Students with Special Needs

written by: Barbara • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 7/12/2012

Writing is hard. For some students with special needs, writing a sentence can be an all day task. When special education students are mainstreamed into regular classes without IEP modifications on lessons and outcome, writing the required essays must take planning, one paragraph at a time.

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    Building a Winning Essay One Paragraph at a Time

    A winning essay and a completed one begin with paragraph at a time. For students with special needs, the process must be detailed and sequential from beginning to end. Students must be provided with the right tools (computer, pens, pencils, dictionary, notebooks etc) to complete the assignment along with specifics on good paragraph construction that provides details and transitions from one paragraph to the next into a final essay.

    Parts of a Paragraph

    • Title: the title drives the content of the paragraph. For example if a student wants to talk about, "Building a Birdhouse," then the title will drive the rest of the paragraph like the topic sentence, supporting facts and details and the conclusion. The title must be concrete enough that if a student wanted to research the topic, the keywords would drive the engine search for information on building birdhouses.
    • Topic Sentence: the topic sentence begins the paragraph by stating what the paragraph is about in content and context. For example, using the title, "Building a Birdhouse," the topic sentence might be, "Building birdhouses are eco-friendly for the birds and for the builders." The topic sentence will then drive the rest of the paragraph by answering the questions, "Why, Provide Details, Show Examples, and Provide Pictures of Built Birdhouses."
    • Details and Supporting Facts and Examples: details are important in showing the writer's expertise as the builder of birdhouses or as the great researcher of articles on how to build birdhouses. If the building is first hand experience, then the writer can use "I" in "When I build birdhouses with my dad, we build them together as a team." The details could then be, "I select the type of wood that will be used to build a birdhouse. I also select the paint colors of yellow and red to attract the birds to my families outdoor bird sanctuary." Students should be encouraged to take pictures of their birdhouses and include them in their essay, especially in the first paragraph for a dramatic and personalized essay experience.
    • Conclusion: in the closing sentence of the paragraph, the sentence is basically a topic sentence wrap-up using different words to convey a sense of closure to the the contents of the paragraph. Each paragraph has a conclusion that allows the writer the ability to transition to another paragraph building upon the first until the essay is fully completed.
    • Final Essay: the final essay consisting of three paragraphs or 23 paragraphs (spellchecked) will have a title page with the title, writer's name, teacher's name, course and the date and pages containing content. Each page is numbered and each paragraph is double spaced for easy reading and editing.

    Teachers can provide the learning objective, supplies (dictionary, thesaurus, writing software if needed for students needing assistive software per IEPs, and monitoring to guide students in writing their essay beginning with the first paragraph to the last one. When given the right tools and support, any student can build a winning essay, one paragraph a time.