An lscc learning Center Self-Paced Tutorial



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  • Writing
  • Effective
  • Paragraphs
  • Composing: Creating Topic Sentences and Supporting Sentences

What is a Paragraph?

  • Definition
    • A group of related sentences that develop one main idea
  • Three concepts for good paragraphs
    • Unity: one idea per paragraph
    • Development: sufficient detail (good writing is 25% ideas & 75% details!)
    • Coherence: understandable, easy to follow (logical order, effective transitions)

Anatomy of a Paragraph

  • Topic Sentence
    • Usually first—want to use the norm for the paragraph assignments
    • Contains TWO PARTS
      • Topic Controlling Idea
  • Body
    • The details which make your topic sentence vivid to the reader, that
    • prove your point

Sample & Exercise

  • Identify the topic sentence and supporting details in the following paragraph from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:
    • The summer picnic gave ladies a chance to show off their baking hands. On the barbecue pit, chickens and spareribs sputtered in their own fat and in a sauce whose recipe was guarded in the family like a scandalous affair. However, every true baking artist could reveal her prize to the delight and criticism of the town. Orange sponge cakes and dark brown mounds dripping Hershey’s chocolate stood layer to layer with ice-white coconuts and light brown caramels. Pound cakes sagged with their buttery weight and small children could no more resist licking the icings than their mothers could avoid slapping the sticky fingers.

Sample & Exercise

  • The topic sentence and supporting details:
  • The summer picnic gave ladies a chance to show off their baking hands. On the barbecue pit, chickens and spareribs sputtered in their own fat and in a sauce whose recipe was guarded in the family like a scandalous affair. However, every true baking artist could reveal her prize to the delight and criticism of the town. Orange sponge cakes and dark brown mounds dripping Hershey’s chocolate stood layer to layer with ice-white coconuts and light brown caramels. Pound cakes sagged with their buttery weight and small children could no more resist licking the icings than their mothers could avoid slapping the sticky fingers.

Topic Sentences

  • Pete’s sloppiness is a terrible habit.
  • Pete’s sloppiness is an endearing quality.
  • Elise’s dirty kitchen is a sign of her cooking skills.
  • Elise’s dirty kitchen makes me want to call the health department.
  • Identify the TOPIC and
  • CONTROLLING IDEA in each

Topic Sentences

  • The TOPIC and CONTROLLING IDEA:
  • Pete’s sloppiness is a terrible habit.
  • Pete’s sloppiness is an endearing quality.
  • Elise’s dirty kitchen is a sign of her cooking skills.
  • Elise’s dirty kitchen makes me want to call the health department.
  • How would the paragraphs be different?

Steps in Writing a Good Paragraph

  • Follow this order for sure success:
    • Narrow the topic
    • Draft the topic sentence
    • Generate DETAILS for the body
    • Select and drop details
    • Arrange in a plan or outline
    • Time to draft…..

Topic Sentence Exercise

  • The key to a good topic sentence is to narrow the topic first.
  • For example: general topic is good food

Generating Details for the Body

  • For an excellent and inexpensive Mexican lunch, you cannot beat Las Fuentes.
    • What details do we need?
      • Consider menu
      • Consider prices
      • Consider what “excellent” implies

Select and Drop Details

  • Which of the following details would NOT support the topic sentence
  • (For an excellent and inexpensive Mexican lunch, you cannot beat Las Fuentes.)
  • Combination plates cost $5.00
  • Service is fast
  • A margarita is $7.00
  • Daily specials
  • Friendly waiters
  • Located in a shopping mall
  • Free chips and salsa
  • Established 1965

Select and Drop Details

  • Which of the following details would NOT support the topic sentence?
  • (For an excellent and inexpensive Mexican lunch, you cannot beat Las Fuentes.
  • Combination plates cost $5.00
  • Service is fast
  • A margarita is $7.00
  • Daily specials
  • Friendly waiters
  • Located in a shopping mall
  • Free chips and salsa
  • Established 1965

Arrange in a Plan or Outline

  • For an excellent and inexpensive Mexican lunch, you cannot beat Las Fuentes.
  • Combination plates cost $5.00
  • Service is fast
  • Daily specials
  • Friendly waiters
  • Free chips and salsa
  • Once you decide the order, how difficult will drafting be?

The Paragraph

  • For an excellent and inexpensive Mexican lunch, you cannot beat Las Fuentes. This great little restaurant has become a regular stop in my week. Most importantly, the combination plates only cost $5.00. Add fast service and daily specials with even more discounts, and you can see why it’s my favorite place for lunch. The waiters are among the friendliest I’ve ever encountered, and if you run low on the free chips and salsa, they’ll bring you more in a hurry.


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