Teaching writing is hard. It just is. For a handful of students, writing is second nature; still, most need support and guidance. Once students get passed the introduction paragraph, they begin to breathe more easily. Yet, body paragraphs can present their own issues. It’s obvious that using body paragraph examples is important. What’s less obvious is figuring out how to use them well. Here, we’ll explore some specific ideas.
HOW TO USE BODY PARAGRAPH EXAMPLES
When students enter the room, give them a slip of paper (or a digital form), and ask them to choose how they would prefer to learn about writing body paragraphs. I’ve offered students the option to work with a partner or small group to analyze examples or to work with me as I model how to write a body paragraph for a smaller group.
You can do this same thing at the end of the period as an exit slip. Ask students to write part of a body paragraph for you (just so that you have some specific data), and then pose the question: Do you want to evaluate examples in small groups tomorrow or work with me at the board to write a paragraph as a group? You can also add other options. For instance, you might add a choice about color-coding the elements of a body paragraph for identification purposes. Based upon students’ choice and the data from their writing sample, you can put them into groups for the next day’s lesson.
Anticipate areas of confusion for students, and try to scaffold those complexities with examples. For instance, my students often struggle to understand how to use an entire sentence to transition between ideas. I want them to move away from single-word transitions to a variety of words, phrases, clauses, and entire sentences. I encourage students to use transitional sentences to begin or end a body paragraph, but I have to show them examples and write examples with them in order for it to make sense.
Another skill students find difficult is blending their own ideas with that from research. They can often cite sources either by summarizing or directly quoting, but expanding upon that information with their own thoughts is difficult. I try to teach my students different methods for building upon research so that if they aren’t sure what to do, they have specific examples to which they can refer.
Use body paragraph examples to show students how to embed quotations. The more practice students get, the better they will become at this skill. One way I’ve found successful is to give them a paragraph that is already written along with sources that would support the arguments in the paragraph. However, I omit the research. Students read the topic sentence and plug in research where it makes sense. As they do, they practice MLA stipulations for embedding quotations.
Use body paragraphs to demonstrate the difference between correct citations and plagiarism. I write with students as they learn this concept or review from the previous year. As we decide what to write, I make purposeful mistakes with citations. After typing, if no one corrects me, I read back through the current version of the paragraph, and I ask students to make careful observations about the citations. Usually, they are able to tell me what needs to be changed, which builds their confidence. This is the plagiarism refresher mini unit I like to use to review rules for MLA citation.
I always use the hamburger or sandwich metaphor when I cover body paragraphs, but tomato doesn’t necessarily translate to “analyze the research” in students’ minds. So, I came up with an acronym: MEAT.
M – MAIN POINT
E – EVIDENCE FROM RESEARCH
A – ANALYZE THE RESEARCH
T – TRANSITION TO NEXT IDEA
I like to use body paragraph examples to have students identify the MEATy elements. As they write their own, they use a graphic organizer that reminds them of the necessary ingredients. Not all students need this structure, but the ones who do appreciate the guidance.
If you have body paragraph examples, hopefully this post has given you some ideas for how you can expand your uses for them. If you need body paragraph examples, you can find some of the ones I like to use with argumentative writing units in the resource below (along with a whole slew of other good stuff for scaffolding the body paragraph writing process). Click on the image to view the details, or see them here.
Ready to read about some strategies for scaffolding conclusion paragraphs?