activity was developed for English 99 - Basic Writing, but it would be
helpful for any students who need to study or review basic paragraph structure.
The building component of the activity can also be used as an ice breaker/team
builder in any course.)
top of activity
While working on this
activity, students will
-- get to know their
-- learn strategies for effective team work
-- explore paragraph structure including the topic sentence, levels of
support, transition, and conclusion
supplies (clay, toothpicks, Post-it notes, paper clips, pipe cleaners,
tape, string, etc.)
Part 1 - Build a Structure
1. Form small groups.
Read and discuss the example paragraph. Underline the topic sentence and
concluding sentence. Number the pieces of general support. Circle the
second-level support and specific details. Identify transitional phrases
2. Build a three-dimensional
model that illustrates the structure of the example paragraph, including
the topic sentence, levels of support, transition, and concluding sentence.
If necessary, consider providing a "key" or other labels that
explain how the model "works."
3. Share and discuss
your paragraph model with the other groups.
Part 2 - Write a Paragraph
1. Use what you've
accomplished in Part I to help you write a paragraph on a topic of your
choice. You may continue working in groups or work individually. Either
build a new model or use your group's first model to help plan the paragraph's
2. Revise and edit
the paragraph, using the model(s) to check structure.
Each member of your
group will complete his or her own project reflection form. However, you're
welcome to consult with class members as you complete your form. Hand
in your model/structure, your notes, paragraph drafts, final paragraph,
and reflection form.
1. How does the model
your group built help you understand the structure of the paragraph?
2. How did working
with hands-on materials change the way you think about writing paragraphs?
3. Describe how your
group worked together to develop/design the paragraph model.
4. Did you identify
strengths in the other members of your group (or strengths of your own)
that you were not aware of before? Please describe the strengths you noticed.
Lisa designed the
Build a Paragraph Activity guided by the three components of our theoretical
- the unique learner
- The activity was designed with the unique learners' MI (multiple intelligences)
strengths/challenges in mind. The process is especially rewarding for
students with interpersonal, visual/spatial, and bodily kinesthetic
strengths. Students may discover that thinking about writing structure
in a three-dimensional form opens up a new way of thinking about writing
process and results. Furthermore, because students observe other groups
building paragraph models as well as their own group building process,
they often comment on the unique approaches other students take to solving
the same problem.
- the learning-centered
environment - This activity creates a serious, yet lighthearted and
non-threatening atmosphere in the classroom. It's fun! This creates
a wonderful opportunity for the instructor to point out how humor can
help create an environment that encourages creativity. This activity
also offers the "hands-on" learners a chance to share their
strengths in a classroom setting (writing classroom) where they sometimes
feel like a fish out of water. If this activity is done early in the
semester, it can set the tone for the entire semester. Students know
this will be a challenging yet collaborative, supportive atmosphere.
- The construction
of meaning - Students develop a visual and hands-on "understanding"
of the structure of a paragraph. Students build models based on their
recognition of structural patterns. The model provides opportunities
for developing metaphors about the writing process that are personally
meaningful. For example, transition becomes the "adhesive"
that fastens together elements of the structure. Also, the reflection
activities are designed to help students construct meaning both from
the process of the activity and from the results. The reflection activities
here to email Lisa questions, comments, and suggestions.
here to join our email discussion group!
here to read more about our model.