You can use exemplification paragraphs to help you understand how much your students already know about a specific topic. Exemplification paragraphs are simple exercises where you ask your students to write an introductory sentence, three sentences that support the introduction, and a conclusion sentence. As a teaching tool, these paragraphs ask students to consider topics from a challenging new direction, while giving you an idea of their prior understanding.

Class Specific Information

Exemplification paragraphs ask students to provide two or three specific examples relating to the topic, demonstrating how much information the student already knows about the topic. You can use this assignment to ask your students to show how you much they already understand the information from your class, giving you the opportunity to focus on problem areas or increase the difficult of your class to compensate for a well prepared class. For instance, in your English class, use topics like metaphor, simile, sonnet or specific authors, such as Jane Austin or Edgar Allen Poe.

Address Stereotypes

Stereotypes are the unfortunately result of cultural misunderstandings, but in a classroom they can distort the way students perceive the information from your lectures. Use exemplification paragraphs to identify and confront these stereotypes, while developing an understanding of your student’s perceptions. As an example, in your history class, use topics like Civil War South, the institution of slavery, revolutionaries or cultural groups like Native Americans or 18th-century Mexico. If you find your students uncomfortable with the topic, use the opportunity to discuss the reasons they are uncomfortable and discuss some of the ideas they have about these topics.

Clarify Misconceptions

The history of important figures is often an area where students have varied interpretations and misconceptions, resulting from a misportrayal of these figures in books and movies. Use exemplification paragraphs to identify some of these misconceptions, letting you know which figures need clarification during your lectures. For instance, in your history class, use topics like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or Paul Revere.

Assess Understanding

Students come from diverse educational pasts, and you may find it difficult to assess their individual ability to use important class techniques, such as reading interpretation. Exemplification paragraphs allow you to address this, asking students to use their interpretive skills on a piece of literature. Instead of handing out specific topics, give each student a short poem or selection of literature to read. Instruct them to use the piece of literature as their topics. For instance, you may hand one student a copy of William Blake’s “London,” and ask the student to read, interpret and offer three examples supporting her interpretation.