The Beginning of a Long Journey
Anyone that spent time in college can write a five-paragraph essay. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you could sit down and write one right now. There are pros and cons of the five paragraph essay, but overall I enjoy the structure it teaches young students. That and they’ll most likely be writing them for a long time. So let’s get them started now! Before we can get to five paragraphs though, we need to start with one.
Step 1: A Hamburger?
Typically I introduce paragraphs to young learners by drawing a hamburger on the white board. Generally this receives a few laughs, and then we begin the lesson by reviewing each part of the hamburger and how it relates to organizing our writing. I’ve chosen to share an image from Reading Rockets rather than showoff my amazing whiteboard-art skills.
Through this idea the students begin to build cohesive paragraphs. We also exam the books we are reading and see how authors utilize paragraphs, and prove they’re are not something I made up because I love hamburgers (I really do love hamburgers).
Brainstorming and I Do, We Do, You Do
Once my beautiful hamburger has been drawn, and we’ve talked over what it means for the students it’s time to build a paragraph. We then take the time to practice brainstorming (a skill they’ll need for their WIDA assessments at the end of the year), and then we’ll write a paragraph on the board as a class. This gives them some practice and provides them with a mentor text for their next task which is to create a paragraph in groups.
Their first paragraphs are done in groups so that students can pick up parts of the lesson they may have missed from their peers. Students have already been grouped based on their earlier assessments of their English levels, and group work provides them with an opportunity to discuss the assignment in a mixture of both French and English. The results? Grand topics such as “Why I love My iPad” or “Unicorns are Beautiful” were covered.
Scaffolding: Sentence Starters & Transition Words
There are a variety of levels in the Grade four and five class. Many students struggle with their confidence to write in another language. I chose to provide all students with sentence starters, and transition words that are segmented for different parts of their paragraphs. Why provide all levels of students with these tools? Because for them to be properly used they need to have direct instruction. In this manner I am not singling any student out, providing direct instruction on how to use these tools, and introducing/reviewing vocabulary.The students responded with creative and fun narrative paragraphs, such as the group example of a Cupcake Castle (one particular student is very much into unicorns and cupcakes right now). With all this work completed by the students on single paragraphs we’ll certainly be switching over to writing five paragraph narrative essays soon. They’ve worked hard, and are ready for more.