Forming Paragraphs in English

TOPIC: Earth, Venus and Mars

Class / Level: Intermediate

Students: Adults / Young adults

Date and time of lesson:

Length of lesson: 40 minutes

Number of students: 12

Lesson aim: To focus on linking words and practise paragraphing.

New language: atmosphere; gravity; zone; greenhouse effect; Goldilocks, abundant; rule of thumb

Assumptions: Students have done some previous work on paragraphing but are not yet competent in paragraphing their writing.

Step 1:

Ask the students if they know what a planet is. If possible, show pictures of the planetary system. Get their ideas. Write them on the board.

Surprisingly, there is no set scientific law as to what constitutes a planet, but as a rule of thumb, a planet: 1) must directly orbit a star; 2) must be small enough that it has not undergone internal nuclear fusion (i.e., it is not a star or star-like object); and 3) must be large enough that its self-gravity gives it the general shape of a sphere. (www.factmonster.com)

Step 2:

Ask the students if they know the names of all the planets circling the Sun, and where they lie. Draw a diagram on the board to demonstrate their relative positions.

The order is: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.

Elicit any information about sizes and distances if possible and add these to the board.

Step 3:

Ask the students to give you examples of linking words and phrases that can appear in passages of text. Write them on the board.

Step 4:

Ask the students what we call the first sentence of a paragraph - the topic sentence. Ask them to tell you why the topic sentence is so important.

The topic sentence is very important for four reasons.

  1. Writing the topic sentence of a paragraph requires you to think very carefully about the focus of that paragraph. In other words, you will not be able to go on to develop a well-constructed paragraph without thinking very carefully about the content of that paragraph. This helps to limit any drift in the paragraph and will help you to edit out vague, unfocused writing.
  2. Having written the whole paragraph, you can return to the topic sentence and check whether the topic of the paragraph has in fact been clearly reflected in the writing. If you have drifted in a different direction during the paragraph, you will be able to see this very clearly.
  3. The topic sentences will help you to check the logical flow of your essay. A very good way to see if your essay is well constructed is to cut and paste the introduction on to a separate page, together with each of the topic sentences. When you look at your introduction and your topic sentences, there should be clear logical progression. You should be able to see the direction and development of your essay. The focus of each paragraph should be obvious. If this is not the case, you will need to go back and reconsider the topic sentences, the wording of your paragraphs and perhaps the structure of your essay.
  4. The topic sentence also guides the readers and enables them to follow your essay far more easily. (Very important when you want a good mark!) The topic sentences are rather like signposts leading the reader through the text.

Step 5: Hand out the jumbled sentences. The jumbled sentences can be presented on a single sheet and the students can write numbers on the sheet to indicate the sequence and grouping. Alternatively, the sentences can be pre-numbered and students write the re-arranged sequence and grouping on a separate sheet.

An even better method is to present the sentences on numbered strips of paper with one sentence on each strip. This enables students to move the sentences physically, to visualize their results better and facilitates discussion in group work.

Tell the students to work in pairs. Tell them that there are three paragraphs. Tell them to start by trying to track down the three topic sentences. (Allow 5-10 minutes depending on the class.)

Step 6: Ask for feedback on the topic sentences. Agree on the topic sentences.

Step 7: Next, tell them to decide on the sentences in each paragraph. They can look for inking words and expressions (as well as the meaning of the text). Allow at least 10-15 minutes depending on the class.

Step 8: Ask for feedback. Agree on the order and the reason why (i.e. the links).

Jumbled sentences

In the passage below, the sentences are in no particular order and are not grouped into paragraphs.

Paragraphing - Planets and Life

Earth is sometimes referred to as the 'Goldilocks' planet because conditions here are just right for life.

However, it is significantly closer to the Sun and hence, significantly hotter.

Had it been a little closer to the Sun, it would have boiled away.

However, the gravity of this small planet is too weak to hold on to a thick atmosphere and its distance from the Sun means that it is very cold.

The water is present because the Earth lies almost in the middle of the 'comfort' zone around the Sun.

The planet Venus is almost the twin of the Earth in size.

In fact, this was not possible as any water boiled away because of the heat of the Sun.

In other words, had the Earth been a little further away from the Sun, any water would have been permanently frozen.

This contributed to a greenhouse effect which sent the temperatures soaring.

It is about half as far again from the Sun and so it is significantly colder.

There is no evidence for life in these dry, cold conditions.

It is unlikely that life can exist in such hot conditions.

The most obvious sign that life is possible is the presence of abundant water.

A planet the size of the Earth in the orbit of Mars might have been able to hold on to a protective atmosphere.

Had it been a little further away, it might have been able to form lakes or seas.

The water vapour helped to build up thick clouds.

With an atmosphere, it could have become warmer and possibly even fertile.

Mars is considerably smaller than the Earth and it only has about one-tenth of the Earth's mass.

Correctly paragraphed

In the passage below, the sentences have been arranged into a clear logical order and grouped into cognate paragraphs.

Paragraphing - Planets and Life

Earth is sometimes referred to as the 'Goldilocks' planet because conditions here are just right for life. The most obvious sign that life is possible is the presence of abundant water. The water is present because the Earth lies almost in the middle of the 'comfort' zone around the Sun. In other words, had the Earth been a little further away from the Sun, any water would have been permanently frozen. Had it been a little closer to the Sun, it would have boiled away.

The planet Venus is almost the twin of the Earth in size. However, it is significantly closer to the Sun and hence, significantly hotter. Had it been a little further away, it might have been able to form lakes or seas. In fact, this was not possible as any water boiled away because of the heat of the Sun. The water vapour helped to build up thick clouds. This contributed to a greenhouse effect which sent the temperatures soaring. It is unlikely that life can exist in such hot conditions.

Mars is considerably smaller than the Earth and it only has about one-tenth of the Earth's mass. It is about half as far again from the Sun and so it is significantly colder. A planet the size of the Earth in the orbit of Mars might have been able to hold on to a protective atmosphere. With an atmosphere, it could have become warmer and possibly even fertile. However, the gravity of this small planet is too weak to hold on to a thick atmosphere and its distance from the Sun means that it is very cold. There is no evidence for life in these dry, cold conditions.


 

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