Strong paragraphs are the building blocks of academic writing, and well-written topic sentences are key to developing effective paragraphs. If you teach a course where writing is a focus, then you’ll probably be covering this topic at some point. I recently put together this Google Slides lesson plan to help my students practice topic sentences and come to an understanding of why they’re important.
The lesson uses examples, analogies, and collaboration to help guide students to an understanding of the topic. After an initial schema building discussion to get students to surface anything they already know about topic sentences, students are shown a paragraph that doesn’t have a topic sentence. It’s unclear what the focus of the paragraph is. I ask students to talk about it and try to guess what the paragraph is about. I write down their ideas on the whiteboard to help emphasize the fact that no one in the room has a clear idea of exactly what the focus of the paragraph is. The example paragraph is as follows:
It’s important to consume healthy food with a lot of nutrients. For example, I drink a green smoothie for breakfast and eat a kale salad with brown rice and chicken for lunch. I can feel my body growing stronger with these healthy meals. You should also wake up early and do cardio exercise in the morning. For example, I wake up at 5 AM and run for 30 minutes and then ride my bike for 2 hours. Although exercise is important, you can’t forget your mind. You have to believe in yourself if you want to achieve this goal. Tell yourself that you can do it, and you will.
Next, I ask students to discuss if they feel that the writer did a good job using writing to meaningfully communicate his/her ideas. I want to use this discussion to elicit the idea that if you have to guess what the person is talking about, then the writer didn’t do a good job. Therefore, as writers, they need to always keep in mind the person reading and make sure that they try and help guide.
Next, I show the students the same paragraph again, but this time with the topic sentence: If you want to come in first in a Spartan Race, there are several things you need to do to practice.
Students have been in the reader’s shoes of feeling unsure about the topic and can now see how a topic sentence can help make a paragraph much clearer and easier to understand. This helps students understand the purpose of a topic sentence from the perspective of the reader. I then drawn an analogy between driving on a foggy road or a clear road. See the three slides below.
The rest of the slideshow gives students practice with identifying good topic sentences and working to write their own.
You can also share this video lesson made from the presentation slides with your students.
Feel free to use and modify this resource for your own needs. I’d love to hear how you improve or extend it. Please leave a comment below to let me know. Also, if you found this useful, please support TESOL Planner by signing up for a free account and by following us on social media.