Do you teach your first and second-grade students to learn how to write a paragraph? In this post, I share ideas, lessons, and activities for students to learn how to write their own paragraphs in a structured way. Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:
If you’ve read any of my other writing posts, then you know that I love using the writing workshop model to teach students how to write. Whenever I teach my class any new lesson, I follow the same structure:
– Explicitly teach the skill and model an example
– We practice the skill together so I can provide timely feedback as needed
– Students go off and independently write while I meet with small groups
I love using this model because it promotes student choice and allows students to work at their own pace, while also allowing for structure and explicit teaching! Below, I share four steps that will help you use this writing workshop model to teach your 1st and 2nd-grade students how to write a paragraph.
1. Explicitly Explain What a Paragraph Is
Naturally, we kick off this unit by explaining what a paragraph is. I would also explain that writers use paragraphs to organize their writing and make it easy to understand for the reader. Students will see paragraphs used in all three genres of writing: informative, narrative, and opinion, so it is important for them to understand what a paragraph is and how to recognize the general organizational format. You can do this using an anchor chart like the ones below:
The first anchor chart simply explains what a paragraph is and gives an example of one. The second anchor chart uses a reverse-stoplight model to break up the three main parts of a paragraph. I like to use the anchor charts together to go over the different color-coded parts of the paragraph so students can see what each part may look and sound like!
Now I think it’s important to mention that your students won’t begin writing paragraphs until they are comfortable writing strong sentences. So, if you need help with that, I have an entire video and unit for teaching that skill. You can see those here: How to Teach Students to Write Sentences (video) How to Write Sentences (teaching unit).
2. Identify the Different Parts of a Paragraph
After you have explained what a paragraph is, you want to see if your students can identify the different sections of paragraphs written by other authors. Not only will this help them understand why the writer organized the paragraph that way, but it could also inspire them with ideas for writing their own paragraphs.
Before having students dissect some paragraphs on their own, I like to take this time to explore different examples of topic sentences and closing sentences so my students will be able to recognize them. You can use anchor charts like the ones below to show several examples of the different types of topic and closing sentences they might see in their reading:
After you’ve gone over the different parts of a paragraph, you can give your students some paragraph examples to practice identifying the topic sentence, details, and closing sentence with different color crayons. Below are examples of a worksheet from my writing unit:
In this example, I would continue with our color-coded visual and have my students identify the topic sentence using a green crayon, the details with a yellow crayon, and the closing sentence with a red crayon. At the end, I like to have my students draw a picture to match the paragraph so I can make sure they understand what they are reading. I also make sure to include several examples of these worksheets for informative, narrative, and opinion paragraphs so students can see different types of paragraphs. You can find these activities in my paragraph writing unit here >>> paragraph writing unit for 1st and 2nd grade
3. Scaffold the Paragraph Writing Experience
Before we dive into writing a complete paragraph, I like to scaffold this for them with two fun activities:
Decide What’s Missing?
In this activity, students will read the partial paragraph on the left, then they have to decide which of the sentence options at the bottom best fit in the missing spot:
In the example above, you can tell that the paragraph is about cats and dogs. This opens up a good discussion because both sentence options are also about cats and dogs. Students will have to really think about their options and decide which sentence makes a stronger topic sentence and why. Then, they can draw a picture of the paragraph in the box on the right.
I have a bunch more of these Decide What’s Missing? Sheets in my paragraph writing unit. Not only do they cover all three writing genres (opinion, narrative, and informative), but I also switch up the partial paragraphs so that some are missing details, some are missing closing sentences, etc.
Complete and Color!
Like the activity above, these Complete and Color worksheets also have a partial paragraph for students to finish. However, instead of choosing a sentence option, students have to come up with their own topic or closing sentence based on the details they read.
4. Write a Paragraph!
At this point, you have explained what a paragraph is, your students have identified the different parts of a paragraph, and you’ve scaffolded the experience so they don’t feel overwhelmed when asked to write a full paragraph on their own. When the time comes, you can use an anchor chart like the one below to review the steps they will take to write their paragraphs:
This step is all about practice, practice, and practice! I like to use brainstorming sheets like the ones below based on student’s skill level and the type of paragraph they will be writing:
After completing the brainstorming sheets, students can go ahead and write their paragraphs. You can also use writing prompts like the ones below for all three types of writing:
So there you have 4 of the main steps I take when teaching my students how to write structured paragraphs! Every anchor chart, activity, brainstorming sheet, etc. shown in this post is included in my paragraph writing unit for first and second grade! You can also use these ideas without the help of my sheets by simply following along the main steps towards teaching your students paragraph writing!
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