Here is a lesson I’ve been using to teach the younger learners how to write a simple paragraph. Extracting the main idea and relevant information from a text, making inferences, using basic connectors to link ideas, or creating a picture with information from the text and personal experience, are also some of the main skills that will have been worked on by the end of the lesson.
1. Have students listen to the song “The Marvelous Toy” by Tom Paxton. Elicit the main idea.
2. In groups, students read the lyrics of the song and underline the different characteristics of the toy. For example:
– many bright colours
– “zip” when it moves, “bop” when it stops, “whirr”when still
– two big green buttons on the bottom
– no name
– everyone loves it
– nobody knows what it is!
3. Teams report back to the rest of the class. Write a web with all the ideas and ask questions such as “Does it have wheels?”, “How do you start it?”, “Is it remote controlled?”, “What do you think the lid is for?”, etc. in order for students to infer other features not explicitly shown in the text.
4. Tell the students they are going to write a paragraph about the toy with the information they have. Explain what makes a good formal paragraph:
• topic sentence
• supporting details (revise basic connectors used to link ideas, e.g. “first”, “then”, “next”, “in addition”, etc.)
• concluding sentence
5. Write with the students the topic sentence and one or two more sentences, asking them for ideas and discussing them. Model through the process, reminding them of the different features.
6. Have the students finish the paragraphs by themselves. Discuss the type of information the final sentence should include.
7. The students share their paragraphs with the rest of the class and discuss any differences.
8. Finally, the students draw a picture of the toy according to the song. You may want to discuss what other features are left open for them to be creative (shape, pattern, size, material). But remind them we can’t have a name for it in any of the languages we speak! (“I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will”.) Students then write a second paragraph independently including some of the new features and their personal opinion about the toy.
9. Hold a gallery walk!