Click play below to hear ways to help students become stronger paragraph writers:
In upper elementary, the goal of all literacy teachers is for their students to be able to write a well-developed and constructed essay. But as you all know, that task is a lot harder and takes a lot of work and practice to happen. Nevertheless, with the help of building foundational skills, such as sentence writing and support, that end-of-year goal will be achieved. In today’s episode, I’m sharing ways you can help your students become stronger paragraph writers.
There’s a variety of ways you can help your students in the classroom, but I’m specifically highlighting 5 simple and easy ways to develop stronger paragraph writers. These ideas range from frameworks, additional and crucial steps during the writing process, and how to get students to write in all content areas. Although providing support might have the perception that students rely on you and these resources, it actually gives them the tools they need to be strong writers on their own.
In our last series, we established that students can struggle to write sentences, let alone an entire paragraph. But with the help of my 5 tips for supporting students, they will quickly become stronger paragraph writers through intentional and consistent practice.
My bonus tip is to join The Stellar Literacy Collective! In this membership, you will have access to so many resources, particularly related to paragraph writing. During this limited time, The Stellar Literacy Collective will be open from November 6, 2023 – November 8, 2023, so don’t miss this opportunity to join this amazing membership!
In this episode on supporting students to become stronger paragraph writers, I share:
- 5 ways to support your students with paragraph writing
- Why students need opportunities to practice writing outside their literacy block
- A step that needs to be added to the writing process
- The importance of a strong foundational skill level for writing more complex paragraphs
- Ways The Stellar Literacy Collective can help you develop strong paragraph writers
- Paragraph Writing Routine Freebie
- Sentence Writing Resource Bundle
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: Free Sample
- Sentence Writing Routine Resource: TPT Store
- Sign up for my Private Podcast: Confident Writer Systems Series
- Check out the Stellar Literacy Collective Membership
- Free Literacy Block Workshop
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 164, 7 Ways to Incorporate More Sentence Level Work in Your Upper Elementary Classroom
- Episode 163, Sentence Deconstruction: What It Is, How It Helps, and Steps to Take To Fit It Into Your Day
- Episode 162, Simple Strategies to Help Your Students Expand Their Sentences
- Episode 161, 5 Reasons Why You Need to Spend More Time on Sentence Writing in Upper Elementary
- Episode 125, Providing Students a 5-Step Process for Writing a Constructed Response Paragraph
- Master the Art of Constructed Response Writing: 5 Powerful Steps for Students
Connect with me:
More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high-quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there and welcome back to another episode. I am so glad that you are tuning in today. I always love getting to spend hopefully your Monday morning with you, or whenever you are listening to the episode.
This week, we are going to continue our conversation all about writing. If you were listening to our podcast back in October, then you know that we did an entire four episode series all about sentences.
We talked a lot about the importance of teaching sentences in upper elementary, we gave strategies to expand your sentences, we talked about how we can work on sentence deconstruction and the impact that has on reading comprehension. If you are brand new to the podcast, welcome, you might want to go back and give that series a listen. It starts with episode number 161.
We are going to sort of build from there. And we are going to talk about Paragraph Writing. But before we do that, I kind of want to just remind you that we want to continue working on sentences. And it’s also okay to take our writing instruction really slowly.
I know I talked about this a lot in our private podcast, The Confident Writer System Series, but we really want to make sure that we are building a strong foundation of writing. And I know that I really encourage teachers to spend a lot of time focusing on sentence writing, especially in the first quarter at the beginning of the year.
And I know a lot of teachers say things like okay, except we eventually have to get to essays. We can’t focus on writing sentences all year long. Like I’ve got it, I’ve got to keep moving here.
And I completely understand that like by the end of the year, you need your students to be able to write, you know, a five paragraph essay or whatever your state demands. But we have to remind ourselves that if our students don’t have a strong writing foundation, then they’re going to struggle with the demands of that more complex writing process.
And this really is the perfect example of we have to slow down in order to speed up. And this past weekend, meaning when I’m recording this episode, so back in October, I presented at the Unlocking SOR Conference, and one of the presenters was doing a session all about the power of sentence writing. And her session was great, I loved it. She is a current third grade teacher who is still in the classroom.
And she shared that during her writing instruction, the most she ever has her students write as a paragraph, but they are spending the majority of their time working on sentence level writing. And I’m so glad she shared that because I think it just reminds teachers and gives them permission that it’s like no, even if it is like two and a half months into the school year, we need to build this foundation.
And I’ve talked about this quite a bit on the podcast. But we know that if students have the building blocks in place to be able to write a strong sentence, then the rest of the writing is going to come so much easier. But we need to make sure that they have that strong sentence writing foundation.
So they need to be able to do things like identify a fragment and know how to fix it. They need to be able to add details to simple sentences, they need to be able to understand the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause and know how to combine them. And they need to know how to combine independent clauses to form a compound sentence.
Like they have to have their sentence writing down it needs to be mastered they need to be competent writers. And even if your students aren’t at that point yet, continue working on sentence level activities with your students, continue to practice and focus and continue to make sentence writing a priority.
So even though we’re going to talk about Paragraph Writing today, I don’t want you to think that this means like it’s time to say goodbye to sentences. No, we want to continue working on sentence level work probably the entire year.
But obviously at some point your students are going to have a strong enough foundation and you are going to want to support them into combining those sentences into paragraphs. And in the same way that we provide continuous support with students and their sentence writing by doing a variety of sentence writing tasks by incorporating it throughout the week.
We also can be really intentional about how we support students with their paragraph writing. So today I’m going to share with you five really easy things that you can do that will support your students with Paragraph Writing.
So whether you’ve already started Paragraph Writing, you’re just getting started with it, maybe you’re already on two essays, it doesn’t matter, these five things are going to help your students become stronger paragraph writers.
So the first thing that you can do is you can give your students a framework for their paragraph. And first things first, we want to make sure that our students know what a paragraph is, and really how to structure it.
So we want to make sure that our students understand that a paragraph is a group of sentences that supports a specific point. What I would encourage you to do, if you are one of those teachers that has already moved on to essay writing, I would maybe slow down a little bit and maybe do a very isolated lesson just on Paragraph Writing with just one single paragraph.
Rather than trying to teach them Paragraph Writing in the context of an essay, because that’s going to be too confusing to them. So let’s just tackle paragraphs first, and then we can move on to multi Paragraph Writing.
But like I said, students really need to understand that a paragraph is a group of sentences that is going to support a specific point. And to help our students with Paragraph Writing, we can give them a very simple outline for their paragraph, we can tell them that their paragraph needs to include a topic sentence, which is usually going to be their first sentence. And it’s going to be a sentence that communicates the main idea of the paragraph.
Their paragraph is going to have supporting details. So that’s going to be three to five sentences. So there’s some variation here. And these sentences are going to share information or details that are related to the main idea. And then they’re going to have a concluding sentence, a final sentence that relates to the main idea.
So that’s it, it is a very simple outline, a topic sentence, three to five sentences with details, and a concluding sentence. And if students follow this framework, it gives them five to seven sentences in their paragraph, which is a really good starting point.
But this framework also gives them somewhat of a checklist. So that way, students just aren’t writing random details. They aren’t just, you know, writing short paragraphs, or really long paragraphs that are excessive. It’s like, Alright, I’ve got my topic sentence, it states the main idea, here’s my supporting details, here’s my concluding sentence.
It helps them focus their writing, which is really important when we’re helping our students develop their writing skills. So that’s the first thing that you can do.
The second thing that you can do to help students with Paragraph Writing, is teach students to outline. And this is something that I don’t think we spend enough time doing. But it really does have a big impact on the success of our students writing.
And most of the time when we think about how we teach writing, and this is what I did in my classroom for many years, and sometimes I’m like, Oh, I wish I could go back and do it over. But we have students brainstorm, and then we have them jump right into drafting.
But that is a big jump to go from putting all of your ideas down on paper, and then maybe crossing some of them out, you know, right into drafting, that is a lot. And so we want to insert another step into the writing process. And that is outlining.
So we want students to brainstorm, create their outline, and then begin drafting. And when students create an outline, they are looking at their brainstorm, you know, they’re deciding which details are important which ones they want to include which ones they want to exclude.
So ultimately, they are deciding ahead of time, which ideas they want to share in their writing. But they’re also deciding the order in which they want to share them. So they’re making a lot of decisions about their writing. Which means when it comes time for them to actually start drafting and writing, it’s going to be so much easier because they know the types of details they’re talking about.
And since our students already have a framework for their paragraph, we can easily help them create an outline before they begin writing. So you could easily create a template by drawing lines or boxes for you know the topic sentence, the supporting details, concluding sentence so that way, they see the very specific places that they need to add for their outline.
This is something that they can learn how to create. You can also grab a free sample of our membership exclusive Paragraph Writing routine at stellarteacher.com/paragraph. And that also has an outline template that you can use with your students.
But the most important thing to remember is that when we’re teaching our students to outline, we’re not skipping brainstorming, we just want to add in outlining to the writing process. So they’re going to brainstorm, outline, and then begin drafting. So outlining is something that we definitely want our students to be doing.
The third thing that you can do is you can give students examples for the types of sentences that they can use as their topic and or concluding sentences.
I often think about, you know, what is some of the hardest or some of the biggest challenges for students when they’re writing. And honestly, sometimes it can just be getting started with their writing, writing, that first sentence can be so challenging for students. And once they have that first sentence, it can be so much easier.
And a topic sentence can also be kind of tricky for students because you know, there’s a little bit of pressure on it, it’s like, this is the main idea of the paragraph, I need to make sure that it’s clear and that my supporting details are going to connect to it. So we want to give students support with how they can create their topic sentence.
And inside the Stellar Literacy Collective, we have a weekly Paragraph Writing routine. I just mentioned that in the previous suggestion, and we share with our members inside this routine, you know, students are learning how to write three different types of topic sentences.
And you can use these same the same sorts of examples with your students, you can have your students write a sentence from the four sentence types. So when students are creating a topic sentence, you could tell them to write a statement or a question or an exclamation. We can also have our students write a sentence with an A positive. And we can also have our students write a sentence with a subordinating conjunction.
And each of these are going to be a different sentence. And they’re also going to give your students a variety of sentence structures to use to start their paragraph. And each week, when students are working on their paragraph, they are going to write all three sentence types for their topic sentence, and then they’re going to pick the best.
So for example, if students are writing a paragraph that explains the benefits of reading books, they might come up with these three topic sentences. So they might write a question, what are some of the ways that reading books can help us learn and grow?
They might write an appositive, which is my favorite hobby, comma, reading books, comma, and that reading books is the positive there. So my favorite hobby comma reading books, comma is a great way to learn new things and expand our imagination.
And then they might have a sentence with a subordinating conjunction. So they’re starting with a dependent clause and ending with an independent clause. So since reading books has many benefits, comma, it is an important activity for people of all ages.
So students are going to practice writing three different topic sentences using those frameworks, and then they’re going to pick the one they liked the best. And giving them these examples and a pattern to follow is also really awesome, because they’re getting more practice with sentence writing. And specifically, they’re getting more targeted practice with writing a variety of sentence structures and sentence lengths.
And so it just continues to focus on sentence writing. So when you are focusing on Paragraph Writing, even if you aren’t using our paragraph writing routine, consider teaching your students specific examples and patterns that they can use for their topic sentence.
So that way, they can mirror those in their own writing and start to, you know, just show that it’s like you, we don’t always write the first sentence that we choose, we want to make sure we’re including variety. These are just some good writing habits that our students we want them to get into.
Okay, the fourth thing that you can do to help your students with Paragraph Writing, is to teach them explicit revision skills. And revising is another area that we probably don’t spend enough time on as teachers.
And I get it when I was a writing teacher, I was not confident at all, I was not a confident writing teacher. And as a result, I avoided things that intimidated me. And revision is something that intimidated me. And so if you can resonate with that, don’t let it scare you, I promise you can teach your students to be successful at revising their own writing.
And revision is really an important part of the writing process. And we want to help our students experience success. And so one thing that you can do is to teach them very explicit revision skills, one at a time.
And I know that can be really overwhelming and challenging for teachers, because you probably look at your students writing and you’re like, Oh, my goodness, my students need help with a lot of like, I can’t just do one at a time because they need help with so much.
We need to remember though, that our students are only going to be able to practice and focus on learning one revision task at a time. So we have to slow down and decide, okay, we’re just going to pick one. So maybe you help with transition words, maybe you help with sentence length. And you’re going to practice that for a couple days, maybe a couple of weeks, multiple times, and then you incorporate another one. So slow down how you teach revision, and two to one at a time.
But I also think it’s important to remember that revising is different than editing. And in a similar way, we also want to teach editing skills just one at a time. Revising has to do with things like word choice and sentence structure and how we’re communicating the ideas. Whereas editing has to do with things like spelling and grammar and punctuation.
And maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but you are going to get a much bigger bang for your buck, if you focus more of your instructional time on revising, versus editing. Students learn to become strong writers when we focus on revision.
You know, editing. While that’s important, those are just small tasks that aren’t going to make a huge difference on your students overall writing abilities. And so focus more of your time and energy on Revision if you can.
Now, the good news is is next week and episode number 167, I’m actually going to be sharing four specific revision strategies that you can teach your students in upper elementary, that will help them become stronger in this area. So definitely plan on tuning in next week, because I’ll give you some very specifics.
Now, the fifth thing that you can do to support students with Paragraph Writing, is to have them practice writing paragraphs outside of your writing block. Our students are going to continue to struggle with writing if we are not giving them real opportunities to practice writing outside of our designated writing block.
I know so often, we focus on writing during writing time, and then we forget about it the rest of the day. But we want to be really intentional about giving our students and especially if you’re starting to work on paragraphs, you really want to make sure that you’re giving your students time to practice Paragraph Writing outside of your instructional time.
So maybe this means that during writing, you have your students write a paragraph to summarize the story, or they write a paragraph to share a book that they loved as a book report. Maybe during math, you have students write a paragraph that explains how they solved a specific problem.
During science or social studies, you have students write a paragraph that is related to the content that you are studying. Maybe they describe ecosystems, or they write a paragraph that tells the order of events for a specific historical event that you’re studying.
You can even at the end of the week, have your students write a reflection paragraph that shares what they learned this week. But we have to give them more opportunities for Paragraph Writing, if we want them to become strong writers just overall. Okay, so make sure we are spending more time outside of writing focusing on writing.
Now I’m going to share a sixth thing that you can do to support your students with Paragraph Writing, because it is only available to you for a limited time. And that is to join us inside the Stellar Literacy Collective. You can learn more at stellarteacher.com/join.
But if you are listening to this episode live on Monday, November 6, you are in luck. Because we are opening the doors to the membership for a very short enrollment window this week. We usually only open the doors to the membership a couple times a year and we are going to have the doors open until Wednesday, November 8 2023. Not for a very long time. So definitely if you are catching this episode live, like I said, you’re in luck, take action come join us.
And the reason why I want you to join us is because one of our big focuses this year has been to help our teachers, our members with Paragraph Writing. And all of the things that I shared with you today during this episode, if they sound like something that your students would benefit from, then you will love having access to our membership exclusive Paragraph Writing routine.
Now, these weekly routines give teachers lessons and they also give you the student materials like the student writing templates and mentor examples and anchor charts to help your students craft a paragraph. And we really slow down the process to help your students become successful with it.
But with the help of these materials, you’re going to be easily able to give your students a Paragraph Writing Framework, you’re going to help them figure out how to outline, you’re going to have no problem teaching your students the three different types of topic sentences, you’re going to easily be able to work on revision skills.
And with our paragraph writing routine, we also make it easy for you to spend time focusing on writing and other subjects. In fact, one of the resources that we include, for each genre of writing is a text based prop along with the text to show students how they could apply this paragraph writing routine outside of responding to like a writing prompt.
So for example, for narrative writing, we include a short story, and then the writing assignment is for students to write a paragraph that summarizes the story. For expository writing, students are reading a text all about the water cycle. And then they have to write a paragraph to explain the water cycle.
For descriptive writing, students have to read a text about the tropical rainforest and then they’re writing a paragraph to describe its ecosystem. So they’re getting actual practice writing, more than just responding to a writing prompt.
And like I said, our paragraph writing routine these resources really make it easy for you to help your students become competent and skilled writers. And these resources are only available inside the membership. We’ve had a lot of teachers ask if we would be willing to sell them on Teachers Pay Teachers or on our website shop, but they are membership exclusive.
So if you want more support with helping your students become skilled writers in the area of Paragraph Writing, we would love to have you join us. And like I said, you are in luck because they are open for a limited time this week. So go to stellarteacher.com/join to check it out. And of course, I hope to see you inside this amazing membership community.
Now, whether you decide to join us or not, I hope that you got some value out of this episode. And I hope you are feeling excited and a little bit more prepared to tackle Paragraph Writing with your students.
Don’t forget to tune in next week, because I will be sharing four revision strategies that you can use to really help your students not only write a strong paragraph, but then learn how to revise it as well. So it should be a really great episode.
And thank you again for joining me. I hope you have a stellar week and I will see you back here next Monday.