Order up! To begin with, a burger needs a bun. Of course, we could get very choosy at this point and let our mind wander over to the current gluten-free and protein-style burger orders, but for the purpose of today's lesson please stay with me in the traditional burger mindset - top bun, lettuce, cheese, burger, bottom bun.
Back to the bun. A top bun and a bottom bun are made from the same ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, etc. Hamburger buns come together in the same package. They are very similar. However, they are not exactly the same. You can tell a top bun from a bottom bun, right? Typically, the top bun has a curvature and perhaps a few sesame seeds sprinkled on top. The bottom bun has a flat underside. These similarities and differences are also found in a well written informative paragraph. A topic sentence and closing sentence are made of the same ideas, but are worded in such a way that a reader can tell one from the other.
The "good stuff" in any burger (cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion, and burger) is much like the body of an informative paragraph. Some burgers are small as some paragraphs may be. Others are quite full of many juicy details. The standard paragraph requirement includes three supporting sentences to back up the topic being discussed.
Now that you can picture this a little better, and your appetite has likely grown, let's look at an example. We will imagine we have been asked to write an informative paragraph on what we have recently learned about penguins. No problem! Remember, whatever we choose as our topic sentence MUST remain our focus throughout the paragraph. In this example, I will inform my reader that penguins are unusual birds. Making this statement forces me to prove my point and support my claim. If I can do so in three supporting sentences, great. If I have more evidence, I can certainly add in some extra support, too.
TOPIC SENTENCE: Penguins are unusual birds.
SUPPORTING SENTENCE 1: Although they have wings, they fly in the water rather than the air.
SUPPORTING SENTENCE 2: As well, most all penguin species live in the southern hemisphere of our planet.
SUPPORTING SENTENCE 3: Interestingly, Antarctic penguins slide on their bellies when moving along their icy landscape.
CLOSING SENTENCE: These special birds are fascinating.
Using this method of paragraph structure quickly summarizes an article or textbook reading passage. Of course, it could also be a great way to organize a child's thoughts and help develop a plan to revisit later when he or she is ready to construct a longer, more detailed essay.
Depending on the age of your child, this technique can be used as is, or expanded upon. Rather than thinking of the top bun as the topic sentence, older students can think of the top bun as the introductory paragraph of a five paragraph essay. Instead of a supporting sentence #1, that becomes the first supporting paragraph, and so on.
Either way, once the beginning steps of paragraph writing have begun, adding other components like strong transitions, good details, academic voice, and powerful vocabulary can be taught and practiced. And, if you would like help with that, you know where to find me. Did you just think... "In-n-Out"? Very funny.
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Author: Melissa Webb
CA Credentialed Teacher