Paragraph Unity &Topic Sentence Teaching Objectives

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Paragraph Unity &Topic Sentence

Teaching Objectives

  • The Structure of a Paragraph
  • Characteristics of a Good Paragraph
  • Paragraph Unity
  • Topic Sentence

The Structure of a Paragraph

  • The topic sentence
  • Supporting sentences
  • Concluding sentence

A sample paragraph for structure

  • There are three reasons why John is not going to university. In the first place, his family is quite poor and, since he has four young brothers and sisters still at school, he feels he should help his family financially as soon as possible. Secondly, if he went to university, his mother would be left alone to look after the young children. Finally, he has been offered a good job with excellent chances of promotion. Consequently, although he wants to go to university very much, John is going to take the job instead.

Characteristics of a Good Paragraph

  • Unity — (Detailed discussion later)
  • Coherence—The sentences should be arranged in a logical way and follow each other smoothly. (logical order and connection of sentences)
  • Full development—Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea in the topic sentence.

Example --- Paragraph Coherence

  • I like reading novels because they tell interesting and moving stories. Moreover, some stories are instructive. By describing good and evil people, and the bright side and the dark side of life, such stories help me to distinguish between right and wrong, and understand people and life. As a result, reading them has perhaps made me wiser.

Example --- Full Development

  • Taking part in sports can also help improve study efficiency. One study shows that people who take regular exercise suffer less from anxiety and are able to work harder. According to a medical report, 83 percent of the freshmen who had trouble with studies were in bad physical shape. And when they were put into a physical fitness program, their grades picked up more or less.

Paragraph Unity

  • By unity we mean that a paragraph should state only one central idea, and all the developing sentences should explain or illustrate the idea. All that is not related to the idea should be excluded.

How to achieve paragraph unity

  • To achieve unity you must make all sentences in a paragraph relate to and support the central idea.
  • 1. give each paragraph a controlling idea.
  • 2. make all sentences in a paragraph support the main idea.

Discuss the unity in the following paragraphs.

  • Example One
  • I want to talk about my father. He is strict with his children, especially with me. He won’t let me out of the house unless I’ve done all my homework. He is a tall and rather skinny man. Some people say he is good-looking. He has a nice streak of grey in his hair. He laughs a lot and enjoys life. My father is interesting. My father’s face is rough. His complexion is leathery and wrinkled. There are large pores in the skin that covers his nose and cheeks. His nose, broken twice in his life, makes him look like a boxer who has lost many fights. His mouth, unless he smiles, looks hard and threatening. His chin is massive and angular. Shaved or not, my father’s face is rugged.

Example Two

  • Television has many harms. Since the television was invented, it has played an important part in people’s life. It has turned the big world to a small one. People can see the same program at the same time around the world. But, as soon as television comes into common families, it also has many harms, especially for the children. For example, children spend too much time watching television. As a result, they cannot concentrate on their studies. What is worse, their eyesight becomes poorer. And they are often exposed to violence, which is harmful to their mental growth.

Topic Sentence

  • A paragraph should have only one central idea. In an English article, the central idea is called topic and usually clearly stated in a sentence, which is called topic sentence.

Find out the topic sentence and pay attention to the relationship between it and the other part of the paragraph

  • Taking part in sports can also help improve study efficiency. For example, whenever I feel a little tired from studies, I will have a 15-minute walk on campus. After a brief walk I always feel entirely refreshed and relaxed. I can continue to study and memorize things better. My personal experience shows that half an hour’s exercise after a supper will help you maintain concentration for a whole night.

Characteristics of a Topic Sentence

  • 1) Complete: A good topic sentence includes a topic and a controlling idea
  • e.g. There are three reasons why John is not going to university.
  • 2) Limited: A good topic sentence is limited or not too general.
  • e.g. From an economic perspective, earning a college degree is a sound investment.
  • ×Modern technology brings great convenience to education
  • × Computers are important.
  • 3) Allowing full development : A good topic sentence should not be too specific. It tells the readers where the paragraph will go and allows the main idea to develop fully in one paragraph.
  • e.g. Different types of students have different ways of spending their spare time.

A topic sentence: topic + controlling idea

  • 1) To use an affirmative statement.
  • e.g. There are three reasons why John is not going to university.
  • 2) To introduce the topic sentence with a question and answer
  • e.g. What is the main cause of generation gap? It is lack of communication.
  • 3) To use a subject-complement sentence structure
  • e.g. A problem that keeps Luoyang from becoming a clean civilized city is the serious pollution of the city.
  • 4) to introduce the topic sentence with a general statement and a more particular one.
  • e.g. While many members of the animal kingdom communicate, humans communicate in the most sophisticated way.

Position of Topic Sentence

  • A topic sentence may appear anywhere in the paragraph, at the very beginning, in the middle or at the end. It may even be implied --- in that case the controlling idea is obvious.

Topic sentence at or near the beginning

  • Sometimes we lie to our good friends only for fun. The April Fool’s Day is a typical example. On that day, we usually try all our efforts to think out lies to fool our friends. The more believable these lies seem to be, the easier they will be taken in. When we see them do get in the trap we set for them, we feel very satisfied and get a lot of fun from it.

Topic Sentence in the Middle

  • My parents have gone out for the evening. Just as I settle down to read or watch TV, my little brother demands that I play with him. If I get a telephone call, he screams or knocks something over. I always have to hang up to find out what’s wrong with him. Baby sitting my brother is no fun. He refuses to let me eat a snack in peace. Usually he wants half of whatever I have to eat. Then when he finally grows tired, it takes about an hour for him to fall asleep.

Topic Sentence at the End

  • The Amazon River is the widest river in the world, with one-fifth of all the fresh water on earth moving through its mouth. In length it is second only to the Nile, and if stretched across the United States, it would reach from New York to Los Angeles. In addition, the Amazon covers the largest area of any river. Therefore, it can be argued that the Amazon is the mightiest river on earth.

Task: Identify the topic sentence

  • The biggest problem in ancient DNA research is getting the DNA in the first place. The favorite material to work with is bone, and a small chunk of it is best. Cells can lie inside the hard bone structure waiting to be liberated after the calcium has been dissolved away. That’s the easy bit. Getting the DNA out, what little of it that remains is horrendously difficult and many teams have succumbed to pitfalls in the past. The rule is that it has to be done in a clean room better than used to assemble spacecraft to go into deep space, and it has to be done away from any other source of potentially contaminating DNA.

Task: Identify the topic sentence

  • As human beings, we are constantly in the stage of change. Our bodies change everyday. Our attitudes are constantly evolving. Something we swore by five years ago is now almost impossible for us to imagine ourselves believing The clothes we wore a few years ago now look strange to us in old photographs. Everything is changing. This is a prediction I can make with absolute certainty.


  • Write an essay of 400 words or so:
  • Traveling is Kind of Education
  • Special attention should be paid to the topic sentences and unity in each paragraph.

Thank you for your Attention!

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