Organizing Paragraphs

Feb 25, 2009 by

Important Book

When teaching students to write a paragraph with main idea and details, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown provides a great model.  Read the book aloud and discuss the pattern.  Each page is written about a different topic and includes a main idea and details.  After reading the book, have students write their own “important paragraph.”

I like to use this book at the end of a science or social studies unit to help students share some main points and details that they learned from the unit.  I have them each make their own “important book”,  write one sentence on each page and illustrate the pages.

The most important thing about _____ is _____.
It ________.   It ________.   It ________.
But the most important thing about ____ is ____.

The most important thing about air is that it keeps us alive.
It is a gas.  It is invisible. It contains oxygen and carbon dioxide.
But the most important thing about air is that it keeps us alive.


Important Book Cover Important Book Inside

Paragraph Frames

The following is a paragraph frame that can be used after reading or studying about a famous person.  It helps students synthesize the information learned in an organized manner.  The frame can be adapted for any topic area.

I learned a lot about ________________. I learned
that (s)he was ____________________.  I also learned________________________. S/he is remembered for ____________________. The most important thing I learned was _______________.

How-To Hand

This is a graphic organizer that can help students organize their thoughts before they do process writing.  See next page for a completed sample.

  1. Optional:  Read aloud How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson.
  2. As a class make a list of things students know how to do (ride a bike, brush their teeth, make a PBJ, etc.).
  3. Make an overhead transparency of the How-To Hand reproducible.
  4. Select one topic from the list to use for a shared writing lesson and write it in the center of the hand on the overhead.  Eg.: How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Ask students to list (in any order) the steps performed in making a PBJ.  Write a different step on each finger.
    Decide together the order of the steps and number each finger.
  5. Introduce or review time order clues words such as first, then, next, finally, etc.  Write a different transition word on top of each finger. How to Hand
  6. Model how to write the information in a “how-to paragraph.” Beginning with the topic in the middle of the hand, write a topic sentence.  Then write the steps in order, beginning each sentence with a transition word.  Finally, add a closing sentence.
    How to Hand 2 x
  7. Independent Writing: Have each student select a topic from the brainstormed list.  Be sure that it is something they know how to do well enough to be able to explain it, and make sure there are not too many or too few steps in the process.  Guide students through the process of using the “How-To Hand” to write their own paragraphs.
  8. Edit, revise, illustrate, and bind into a class traveling book. Click on pictures to enlarge.
    How-To Book Cover How-To Book How-To Book How-To Book How-To Book

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