Third grade writing focuses on developing the building blocks for larger and longer assignments. One key component of writing an essay at this level is learning to structure a paragraph. The focus of the paragraph in third grade should be on developing a single topic, providing supporting evidence and developing a conclusion.
Expectations of a Paragraph in Third Grade
Writing standards in the third grade include both opinion and informative writing, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (See Reference 1). Paragraphs should include clearly stated topics and supporting evidence for the student's opinion (See Reference 1). Evidence may be presented either through research or through the student's personal examples in an opinion assignment (See Reference 1). Students should also be able to link ideas together within a paragraph and throughout a whole writing assignment (See Reference 1). Concluding sentences are also a part of the paragraph structure at this level (See Reference 1).
Determining the Elements of a Paragraph
Providing students with sample paragraphs helps them to begin to determine both the purpose and the structure of a paragraph. Students can begin with identifying the main topic of the paragraph and comparing their idea to the topic sentence (See Reference 2, p. 4). Once they realize that the topic sentence gives the reader the overall idea of the paragraph, then students can start to determine the supporting details presented in the writing (See Reference 2, p. 4). The teacher may ask students why particular details are included. The students should determine that the details provide extra examples of the main topic of the paragraph.
Outlining the Paragraph
Once students have learned the primary elements of a paragraph, they can begin working on an outline for their own paragraphs. Graphic organizers provide younger students with a concrete way of looking at paragraph development. The focus of the graphic organizer should be on one main idea that the student will center all other ideas around (See Reference 3, p. 6). In a web format, the topic sentence forms the center of the organizer (See Reference 3, p. 6). Details surround the topic sentence, and the student also writes a conclusion or summary sentence.
Drafting the Paragraph
Once a plan has been created for the paragraph, students should begin to draft their writing, keeping in mind the structural elements that are important to an effective paragraph. In drafting the paragraph, students should note that their central idea should be clearly stated in the topic, or first, sentence (See Reference 3, p. 7). Then, each of the supporting details should be expanded upon in sentence form in the body of the paragraph (See Reference 3, p. 7). Guiding students through the process of expanding upon each idea created during brainstorming provides a logical transition to paragraph writing.
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