Developed by: Emily Tharpe, March 12, 1999
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Derived from: Reba Flanders, Okemah Middle School; Okemah, OK
Grade level: Original source specified grades 7-9, but in order to use this lesson as a preparation for eighth grade writing assessment purposes, I chose to lower the grades to 6-8.
Purpose: This lesson provides students at the middle school level with a visual layout of how to create paragraph unity, since many students at this stage of their writing have difficulty in expressing their thoughts on paper in a sequential manner.
Objective: Using a fan model developed by the student, the students will be able to construct a well-written paragraph which contains a topic sentence and five supporting sentences. (Domain: cognitive; Bloom: application)
Materials: A large pleated fan, such as a fireplace-cover fan, or one folded from posterboard
A piece of 8x10 paper for each student
Ask the students to recall the two parts of a well-written paragraph that have been previously discussed (topic sentence, or main idea, and supporting sentences). Read aloud to the class an example of a paragraph containing these two parts and ask the students to identify the topic sentence and to name the supporting sentences that they heard. Remind the students that in order for them to write effective paragraphs, they must include these two parts in their own paragraphs.
Tell the students that they will be writing their own paragraphs using a model to help them keep their sentences within the paragraphs related. Tell them that by the end of the lesson they will be able to construct a well-written paragraph that contains a topic sentence, and at least five supporting sentences.
Tell the students that when they learn how to create clear paragraphs, their essays and reports will also be clear and easier to put together. Tell them that when each sentence in their paragraphs and essays relate to one another and explain the main idea, their writing sounds more mature and developed. Explain to them how the model that they will see and use today will help them as they write for their eighth grade writing assessment test. Ask the students to give other reasons why it is important that they use clear writing. (They may suggest job applications or letter writing.)
Using the large pleated fan as a model, explain to the class that the fan is a representation of a paragraph. The base of the fan is the topic sentence and each pleat is a sentence which develops that topic. Each developing sentence (or pleat) is connected to the topic sentence (or base). Also, each sentence is connected to the other sentences to form a complete whole. Make sure that the students see how the sentences relate by adding an unattached pleat and letting it fall out of the fan. Unrelated (unattached) sentences do not fit into the paragraph. Explain to the class that when paragraphs express a main idea and contain building sentences that further explain that main idea, a complete thought is expressed.
Ask the students several questions about paragraph unity such as:
Draw a picture of the base and the pleats on the board. (Base may be drawn at the top of the "fan" since at this stage in their writing the topic sentence is most easily placed first in a paragraph.)
Ask students to come up with a topic to write a small paragraph on. Call upon a student to come up to the board and write out a topic sentence from the chosen topic on the base of the fan. Call upon another student to write a supporting sentence on one of the pleats of the fan. Continue to ask students to come up to the board and fill out the remaining pleats and encourage the students to help the student who is writing on the board if he or she becomes stumped. Make sure each sentence ties with the main topic.
Make sure through your questions and the model that is drawn out on the board or overhead that students understand the concept of paragraph unity.
Have the students fold their 8x10 sheet of paper into a fan with five creases in it. Instruct them to tape approximately 1/3 of the lower portion of the fan together to create a base.
Have the students create their own paragraphs by writing a topic sentence on the base of their fans and 5 supporting sentences on the folds. Remind the students as they work to make sure that their sentences support the topic. Supervise their work to help those having difficulty and encourage them to share topic ideas as they work.
Have the students write another paragraph on their own, but this time on notebook paper. Tell them to use their fans as a visual reminder of a unified paragraph. If time does not permit them to finish in class, allow them to complete their paragraphs as homework.
Allow the students to write paragraphs one or two times during the week using the fan model so that they can practice developing a main idea in a well-written paragraph. As they bring in their paragraphs, allow them to work with a partner to check for sentences that do not support the main idea of their paragraphs. Routinely allow each student to share their corrected paragraphs with the rest of the class to further reinforce the writing of fluid paragraphs.
ASSESMENT AND EVALUATION
Have the students apply the paragraph unity/fan model to daily writing assignments that they are given such as journals or book summaries. Check the students work daily and praise or provide corrective instruction as they need it.
After several weeks of practice, check the students' knowledge of paragraph unity by testing them over it. Provide them with a topic and then ask them to write a well-written paragraph on the topic using either the folded fan model or the fan drawing of a unified paragraph. Check the paragraphs to see that the students used the fan models correctly and provided a strong topic sentence and at least five sentences that explain the topic and support it.
Continue to use the fan model in other writing assignments. Show the process to the social studies teachers and have them use the process for developing essays in a content area.
MONITORING AND FEEDBACK
Cues and Prompts:
Remind the class regularly about the importance of paragraph unity and tell them to draw out the fan model anytime they are having problems forming paragraphs.
As students read aloud and share their paragraphs with the class, and as their work is checked by the teacher as they write during guided practice, the teacher should praise the students whose paragraphs show unity and display their work. When students write unnecessary sentences, the teacher should show them why the sentence does not fit with the others or support the main idea and make sure that they understand and learn from their mistakes.
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