Writing Strong Paragraphs

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10759

Blah blah blah. You don't want readers saying that about your stories! You want to keep their attention with descriptive words. Read online stories and work with Superman to learn to communicate well!

categories

Writing

subject
English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Here's a quick game to play with your parent or teacher. The object of the game is to get your opponent to say the word "watermelon."

Rules:

  1. You can only give three one-word clues.
  2. You cannot use any part of the actual word.
  3. You cannot say "sounds like... ," rhymes with... ," looks like... ," or any other any comparison (simile).

For example, if you were trying to get someone to guess the word "dragon," you could say, "fire-breathing," "scaly," and "treasure" as your three one-word clues.

Hopefully, you were successful in helping your opponent guess the word "watermelon"!

You probably realized that it can be quite challenging to communicate information using only three words.

Was it difficult selecting three very specific, descriptive words? If you were not successful, take a moment to discuss with your teacher or parent what words you could have used that would have helped clue him or her in on the target word. You can select a new target word and try playing again if you'd like.

Thankfully, in your own writing, you are usually allowed to use more than three words, particularly when it comes to one of the most essential units of writing, the paragraph.

Whether you are writing an essay for school or a short story for your own entertainment, you have to create strong paragraphs. A paragraph is a group of sentences focused on one particular idea. Every word in the paragraph should be carefully chosen to develop your main idea. The paragraph could be designed to explain a concept, offer evidence to support your argument, answer the "So what?" question about your topic, or draw your work to a close.

Regardless of the purpose, when you view each paragraph as a separate unit, you will be more selective about the individual words that make up the whole, choosing specific words instead of general ones. As you organize your sentences, you need to think about the relationship each new sentence has to the preceding sentence.


Consider this example of a strong paragraph from the National Geographic article, The Sticky-Sweet Story of Cotton Candy by Rebecca Rupp. Read this paragraph once quietly to yourself, then again out loud; think about the author's word choice and sentence organization:

"Morrison and Wharton's electric candy machine first came to the attention of the public at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, popularly known as the St. Louis World's Fair — a seven-month-long extravaganza, featuring among the exhibits a re-enactment of the Boer War, the world's largest pipe organ, a 265-foot 'Observation Wheel,' and an elephant water slide. An estimated 20 million people attended the fair, to whom Morrison and Wharton sold 68,655 helpings of cotton candy. They packaged it in wooden boxes and marketed it as 'fairy floss.'"

  • The author uses specific language and details to help readers visualize the events of the fair (You can see a picture of the elephant water slide in the Missouri History Museum).
  • She also uses strong verbs like "featuring" and "packaged" instead of forms of the verb "to be."
  • The paragraph begins with a description of the setting of the fair and ends with a description of the focus of the article, cotton candy.

When you're done licking your lips, continue on to the Got It? section to rearrange some sentences to form a smooth paragraph!

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