My older students understand that a paragraph can be about only one topic. However, the challenge to writing engaging, interesting paragraphs is to have a variety of sentence patterns and starters. "The Snowflake" sentence-building activity taught the students various ways to create a sentence. Now my challenge as a teacher was to present a lesson on paragraph writing that was entertaining and challenging.
"The Paragraph Game" was an idea I thought up at one of those moments when I should have been trying to go to sleep, but was instead planning ahead for workshops. I must say, I am glad I didn't fall asleep early!
Here's how it goes (and I recommend this only for students in grades 3 and up):
1. Students are given a list of 10 or so sentence writing cues. These may include:
- Start a sentence with a "when" phrase
- Start a sentence with a "where" phrase
- Start a sentence with "Because"
- Include an interesting verb
- Put an adverb in your sentence
- Write a quote sentence
2. Students pair or group up based on their topic choices/interests.
3. Each group is given a bag filled with papers numbered 1-10.
4. Each person takes turn drawing a number. The number they draw corresponds to a sentence style or pattern, and the group has to come up with a way to write that type of sentence in their paragraph.
5. One "pass" is allowed, if the pattern simply won't work or sound right.
6. Students know they are done when they have a 4-8 sentence paragraph, and the last number they draw just leads nicely to a conclusion.
5th graders Annika, Ellery, and Michelle selected the topic "Favorite Vacation Spot." They chose to do a story-style paragraph where they describe a day in Disneyland. I love this!
Annika, Ellery, and I took a vacation to Disneyland. Dizzily we got off the twirling Teacups. We rushed off to get to the next ride, which was Splash Mountain. When we got there, the speaker exclaimed, "Prepare to get wet!" Because Ellery didn't want to get wet, she whined the entire time. Finally Ellery calmed down when Annika and I told her we would buy her cotton candy after the ride. "Splash Mountain" was thrilling and we got soaking wet. Quickly we hustled to "Haunted Mansion." At the end of the day, we all went home with huge smiles on our faces.
I can't even begin to describe the teamwork these three girls used to write this super paragraph. They were open to advice and truly worked as a unit to write this. I am proud of them! It can be harder to work with two other people, especially with the potential of everyone having different ideas.
Call me biased, but I absolutely loved Alex's (5th grade) and Katie's (3rd grade) paragraph. See if you can tell why!
"Awesome Authors and Artists" provides many fun creative writing projects with amazing art work to go with it. Excitedly, students work together to create interesting paragraphs in the Paragraph Game. "'Awesome Authors and Artists' is a wonderful class where kids can learn a lot and still have fun!" exclaimed 3rd graders Mira and Anja. Because a few people left out details in the description of their snowman, there were a few wacky-looking snowman drawings in the "Snowman Draw Game." The great assignments and excellent teacher make "Awesome Authors and Artists" an amazing class!
Okay, maybe it's obvious why I chose this paragraph to blog. Even Alex realized it would be an excellent advertisement, and convinced me I should blog it for that reason alone. But that's not the only reason I chose it! Notice the wonderful adverb starting sentence two; the fabulous adjectives used; the appropriate use of a quotation sentence; the fantastic conclusion. This is a very well-written paragraph, especially considering the fact they were challenging themselves with different sentence styles and rules the entire time!
My classrooms were abuzz with teamwork and collaboration the day we did this game. I will definitely be making this a permanent assignment in my curriculum!