Writing About Literature: Drafting Body Paragraphs

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12880

You've got a topic to write about, but you want to make sure it makes sense and is easy to read. An introduction without a proper body is like introducing The Invisible Man: there's nothing there!

categories

Writing

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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

When you hear a speaker, that speaker is introduced before the speech, not during or after. The speaker spends more time preparing the speech than the introduction. It's the content that gives the speech its value and validates the speaker. Learn how that applies to writing your essay!

You may have heard of the lyrics from the Rogers and Hammerstein song, "Do Re Mi," that say, "Let's start at the very beginning . . . a very good place to start."

"But wait," you think. "This lesson is supposed to be about writing body paragraphs and I haven't written my introduction yet." You are correct — you haven't started writing your introduction paragraph, and that is because it can be easier to start writing a paper by writing the body paragraphs FIRST!

There are no rules that say you have to start writing a paper with the introduction and write the paper from beginning to end in order. Some writers are comfortable with starting a paper at the beginning, and others find it intimidating. Just remember that there is no one correct way to write a paper, and every paper you write doesn't have to be written in the same way. However, for this series, you will practice writing the body paragraphs first, so whether you discover that you enjoy this technique or don't find it productive for your writing style, at least you will have had the opportunity to try a different way of writing.

So why are we starting with the body paragraphs? The answer is simple: you developed all the information you need for them in the previous Literary Response Paper lesson, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar. Your cluster chart contains all the information you need to write your body paragraphs. Therefore, you have specific information about which you can write, so you don't have to worry about staring at a blank screen or page wondering what to write first.


Before you begin drafting your body paragraphs, it's important to understand the components that body paragraphs in a literary response paper should have. As you read through the parts of a body paragraph for a literary response paper, take notes on these elements. The components are:

  • transition
  • topic sentence
  • explanation of the topic sentence
  • example(s) to illustrate the topic
  • explanation of examples
  • summary sentence

Transition The beginning of a body paragraph should start with a transition word or phrase. This helps the reader move from the previous paragraph to the new paragraph. The writer is leaving a sign-post that the topic is changing. Transitions might include numbers such as "First," "Second," and "Third," or prepositional words or phrases such as "Next," "After," "During," "Before," "In all," etc.

Topic sentence The topic sentence could be part of the first sentence where the transition is used or it might be in a second sentence. It is placed at the beginning of the paragraph to inform the reader of the paragraph's focus. A strong body paragraph will only have one focus because it helps keep the paper's material organized and helps the reader better understand what he or she is reading.

Explanation of topic sentence This is a sentence, or a few sentences, in the writer's own words that describes the topic more fully. A simple topic might only need a sentence of explanation, but a more complex topic might need more description in the writer's own words to fully explain the topic to the reader. This description is a general explanation of the topic. It is the writer's job to make sure a reader understands a topic, so always add as much explanation as you can.

Example(s) to illustrate topic This is a sentence, or a few sentences, that provides the specific example(s) from the text that prove the claim the topic the paragraph is making. A paragraph should include one or two examples, depending on the depth of explanation needed for each example. This is where direct quotes should be included in the paragraph. Be as specific as you can when choosing examples so the reader understands them if he or she has not read the text on which you are writing.

Explanation of examples It is not enough to simply include examples. A writer must explain how the examples support the paragraph's topic. A writer can't assume that a reader will interpret an idea in the way that a writer intends, so to make sure a reader understands the point and can see the connection between the example(s) and the paragraph's topic, the writer has to explain in a sentence or a few sentences what the connection is.

Summary sentence A paragraph should end with a summary sentence to conclude and recap the main idea of the paragraph. Think of it as a mini-conclusion to the paragraph. You wouldn't end an essay without a conclusion paragraph, so you don't want to end a paragraph without a conclusion sentence.

A body paragraph should be at least five to seven sentences in length, but it can be longer if it takes more sentences to set up or explain the examples.


Now that you have read about the parts of a body paragraph for a literary response paper, some of them might already be familiar to you.

  • Discuss with your parent or teacher which components you've used in writing before and which ones are new to you.
  • Why do you think it's important to include the examples after you explain the topic in a body paragraph?

When you've discussed these issues, move on to the Got It? section to practice decoding a paragraph.

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