May 7, 2012

Writing a Paragraph

One of our children is old enough to begin writing paragraphs for homeschool work.  I've taught high school English in a Catholic school, but elementary school is slightly different.  The Institute for Excellence in Writing is a great place for anyone to start, with tips, strategies, and teaching aids to help your own child turn his or her amazing thoughts into beautiful writing!

For us, we began with our chalkboard and a simple paragraph: topic sentence; three supporting middle sentences, and; a concluding sentence.  As a visual aid, I asked my daughter to envision one of Daddy's best cheeseburgers off the grill!

Here's what she created:

The top bun is her topic sentence.  The cheese, burger, and lettuce (the "meat" of her paragraph...get it!?) are her three middle, supportive sentences.  You can include more garnishes and condiments if you need a longer paragraph for your child.  And the bottom bun is her concluding sentence.

You can see a bit of the evolution of her writing from thoughts to clearly detailed articulation to written sentence structure by the large, orange words in the middle.  First, we talked her through her ideas conversationally.  She gets a lot of practice around here making up stories with her siblings or recounting to me something she read in a book (which some folks call "narration" -- here's a great link to this aspect of teaching elementary writing at Susan Wise Bauer's website on "The Well-Trained Mind." )

What did my daughter want the general subject of her paragraph to be?  Why?  What did she like or notice about that subject?  What could she tell me about it?  Could she describe it, please?  How?  Where?  When? With whom?  etc. etc. etc.

So, initially, she came up with the following:

TOPIC:  amazing Christmas
SENTENCE 1:  snow
SENTENCE 2:  presents
SENTENCE 3:  candy
CONCLUSION:  wonderful time

And together she and I debated back and forth to come up with her own word choices to put the sentences together in the following paragraph:

"The Ingalls Family celebrated an amazing Christmas!  They made pictures in the snow with their cousins.  There were plenty of presents for everyone to open.  At home, they also made candy with molasses and sugar.  They had a wonderful time at Christmas!"

What an amazing writer she is already!  God is so good!

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