Writing Paragraphs Video, Handouts, and Posters

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Do you want to improve student writing? This video - with eleven supporting handouts and six posters - models how to write better informative paragraphs. You can use these materials for instruction and/or professional development.

For more than three decades, I've gathered multitudes of writing strategies, tested them with my fourth grade students, and trimmed the list to what you see here.

After choosing a strong central message, students use the tried-and-true hamburger analogy to organize their paragraphs. They then elaborate; improve word choice; add transitions; and vary sentence beginnings, types, and lengths. It's simple. It's strong. It works! Let's take a look at the components:

Video: - In less than twelve minutes your students (and/or you) will learn how to craft a better paragraph:
What’s on the Menu? - Kids are presented with a “menu” of choices for writing about parrots. They learn to zero in on a strong central message.
Organization - Selecting the details (meat of the paragraph), writing a topic sentence (top bun), and ending with a related concluding sentence (bottom bun) are modeled.
Elaboration - Adding details and examples (cheese) brings texture and clarity to a paragraph. The video models selection and placement of extra information.
Rough Draft - Kids see the rough draft, which looks pretty good, but are reminded that the job is not done yet. It’s time to edit and improve.
Word Choice - Basic words are replaced with specific vocabulary to strengthen the paragraph.
Transitions - Terms like “however” and “ for example” show students how transitions can effectively link ideas and make the paragraph move along.
Combining Sentences - Too many short sentences make a paragraph choppy. Combining related sentences helps the text flow.
Varying Sentence Beginnings - The last step is to make sure every sentence begins with a different word.
Final Draft - When students see the polished piece, they will understand the importance of strong organization and editing.

Handouts: - Eleven corresponding handouts illustrate the steps, allow students to build their own paragraphs, and provide opportunities to practice editing.
Organization - One page presents the hamburger organizer with text from the video; another provides a blank sandwich organizer for student writing.
Elaboration - One page shows cheeseburger parts with elaboration from the video; another offers a set of blank cheeseburger parts for student writing.
Rough Draft - A hard copy of the rough draft offers opportunities for editing. Analyze the draft as a class, or let kids mark their own changes. It’s great practice!
Word Choice - Basic words are replaced with specific vocabulary to strengthen the paragraph.
Transitions - The draft is marked with transition terms.
Combining Sentences - The improved draft is marked to show how sentences have been combined.
Varying Sentence Beginnings - The improved draft is marked to show how repeated sentence beginnings can be changed.
Final Draft - (1) The final draft is presented in text form. Although the text is marked “final draft,” there’s always room for improvement. Challenge your students to improve the text even more! (2) The final draft is presented on the sandwich organizer. This illustrates how the structure remains the same when editing is finished, as well as how closely elaboration fits with the original supportive details.

Posters: - This colorful poster set displays the steps and models a different paragraph. It guides student writing and jazzes up your room too!
Poster 1: Where’s the Beef? - Start with three or four closely related facts, steps, or details.
Poster 2: Between the Buns - Slip the “meat” between the topic sentence and conclusion.
Poster 3: Say “Cheese” - Elaborate: Give your paragraph some extra information.
Poster 4: Slap It On - Add transitions to pull your paragraph together.
Poster 5: Squirt It On - Squirt on saucy words, including specific nouns and active verbs.
Poster 6: Spice It Up - Combine related sentences. Vary sentence beginnings.

Feeling crafty? To get some hands-on experience, let kids build their own paragraph using hamburger parts. A hamburger paragraph craftivity is also available in my Teachers pay Teachers store. Expository writing has never been so much fun!

Enjoy!
Brenda Kovich, NBCT

Check out my blog, Enjoy Teaching, for more ideas, activities, links, and freebies.

Hamburger clip art was created by Educlips; fonts by Kimberly Geswein.

W.3.2/W.4.2/W.5.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

W.3.5/W.4.5/W.5.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
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