Proper paragraph structure plays an essential role in learning how to write, especially in regards to a proper topic sentence. The topic sentence traditionally is the first sentence in an expository paragraph, and is responsible for laying out the main idea of the paragraph. While students may learn about topic sentences starting in elementary school, it is middle school where children begin writing at a more adult level, creating a greater need for proper paragraph structure. To help students learn about topic sentences, there are several activities you can try.
Underlining worksheets provide visual activities for students to learn how to identify topic sentences, and place the sentences of a paragraph in the right order. Give your middle-school student a worksheet with several paragraphs written on it. Ask the student to underline the topic sentence in a colored pen, and then rewrite the paragraph in the correct order below it.
Sentence jumbles provide another activity that allows your students to visually see how to identify a topic sentence and place it in the correct area of a paragraph. Set up stations around the room with different sentences written on heavy stock paper, such as poster board. At each station, ask the student to put the sentences in the correct order and identify the topic sentence. Once each student has finished, ask him to switch stations.
Another way to allow your students the chance to get up and move around the room, while learning about topic sentences at the same time, is to play a student match-up game. Divide several different paragraphs into sentences and pass out one sentence to each student. Have the students move around the room and talk to each other, to find the other sentences that fit their paragraph. As a group, ask the students to determine which sentence is the topic sentence.
Picture-writing activities allow your students to learn to develop topic sentences from scratch, which helps prepare them for future writing assignments. Cut out different pictures from magazines, one for each student in your class. Pass out the pictures randomly, and ask each student to correctly write a paragraph about the photo. Ask them to underline the topic sentence. If time allows, have the students switch photos with other students around them -- and write a new paragraph for each photo.
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