Lesson Plan: Writing a Good Topic Sentence: The 5 Characteristics of a Good Topic Sentence

Lesson Plan: Writing a Good Topic Sentence: The 5 Characteristics of a Good Topic Sentence
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Yes, We Can

I had a very bright student long ago. Linguistically, he was amazing. Even linguistically gifted geniuses struggle with self esteem.

Barry’s verbal and public speaking skills amazed, which was why I was so surprised the day I saw him at lunch, head in hands, unwilling to say anything. I sat beside him and asked what was the problem.

“I’m stupid,” he said

“No, you’re not,” I countered, “you’re the smartest kid in the class and easily the best speaker. I see you being a great leader some day.”

“But I can’t even write a good topic sentence.”

“It’s the only thing you can’t do. We’ll remedy that tomorrow.” I stayed late that night, preparing the best writing a good topic sentence lesson I could come up with. I’m not sure what happened to that student. I’ll have to look him up. His real name was Barrack or something like that.

What Is a Topic Sentence?

The topic sentence contains the central idea around which a paragraph is developed. A good one has the following six characteristics:

  1. It introduces the topic of a paragraph without announcing it.
  2. It hooks the reader.
  3. It plants questions in the readers' mind.
  4. It uses thought-provoking words.
  5. It is usually the first sentence; however, it can occur anywhere in the paragraph or it can be implied.
  6. It provides a transition from the previous paragraph.

Not all topic sentences will contain every single characteristic. A writer should strive for the ideal; the ideal, however, is not always ideal.


  1. Have students read their rough draft or one of their previous essays.
  2. Instruct them to highlight each topic sentence.
  3. Identify which characteristics each topic sentence contains.
  4. Revise topic sentence.
  5. I find it best to practice some together first. You can come up with your own or steal mine:

1) Original: Columbus was an explorer in the 1400s.

Revision: Travel has changed since the days of Columbus.

2) Original: People waste time

Revision: Some pass time moving from one incomplete task to another, spending too little time with loved ones, investing too little time in physical and mental self-improvement, and treading water financially.

3) Original: I don’t like diapers even though I love my children.

Revision: I love my children, but I hate changing their poopy diapers (especially when my dog runs off with it), but there’s one diaper I didn’t mind changing; ironically, it was the most difficult diaper-change ever, requiring 17 wipes and a blow torch.

4) Original: I had a very bright student long ago.

Revision: Even linguistically gifted geniuses struggle with self esteem.

For a complete semester standards based curriculum guide, follow the link.

This post is part of the series: How to Revise Essays for Organization: Six Lesson Plans that Work

Organized people accomplish more. So does organized writing. teach your students how to organize their writing and how to revise their writing with these five excellent lessons.

  1. A Lesson Plan on How to Hook Your Reader with Dynamite Leads
  2. Writing Lesson Plan in Making the Middle Clear and Concise
  3. Lesson Plan: How to Write an Effective Conclusion
  4. Lesson Plan: How to Write Effective Paragraphs
  5. A Lesson Plan on Writing Coherent Transitions
  6. Lesson Plan: Writing a Good Topic Sentence