Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Write a Formal Paragraph

(TESOL Worksheets--Writing, IELTS Writing, Academic English)

I designed this worksheet when I was correcting the practice writing of my IELTS students, and I discovered (as many teachers do) that my students had no idea of how to organize a paragraph.  So I tried to make a worksheet that walked them through it step by step.
I used this for my IELTS classes, but I think this could be used for any Academic English course, or possibly for General English writing courses.

Google: docs, pub

In formal writing, paragraphs are expected to follow a certain organizational structure.  The structure will look like this

  1. Topic Sentence--This is the main idea of the paragraph
    1. First Supporting Idea--This supports the topic sentence.
      1. Example of the first supporting idea (optional)
    2. Second Supporting Idea
      1. Example of second supporting idea (optional)
    3. Third Supporting Idea (optional)
      1. Example of third supporting idea (optional)

Notes: The examples are optional. Not every supporting idea needs to have an example, but at least some of them will.  A good paragraph should contain at least 2 supporting ideas.  The third supporting idea is optional.

Example:

I don’t like Aaron.  First of all, he is really mean to me.  For example, just last week, he stole my pencil.  For another thing, he is really stupid.  He can’t even do his math homework without help.  And finally, he looks ugly.  His eyes are really small, and his nose is way too big.

The organization is as follows:

Topic Sentence: I don’t like Aaron.
First Supporting Idea: First of all, he is really mean to me.
Example: For example, just last week, he stole my pencil.
Second Supporting Idea: For another thing, he is really stupid.
Example: He can’t even do his math homework without help.
Third Supporting Idea: And finally, he looks ugly.
Examples: His eyes are really small, and his nose is way too big.

For formal essays (such as the IELTS Writing test), you must follow these rules.

You MUST organize your essay into paragraphs.
Each paragraph MUST have a topic sentence, which gives the main idea of the paragraph.
All the sentences in the paragraph MUST relate to the topic sentence.



Practice:
Look at the following paragraphs, and identify their structure.  What is the topic sentence.  What are there supporting ideas?  What are the examples?
Also, in each paragraph, there is one mistake.  Namely, there is one sentence which does not relate to the topic, and should not be in that paragraph.  Underline the misplaced sentences.  Then check your answer with a partner.

Paragraph A
I don’t want to have kids.  For one thing, having kids costs a lot of money.  For example in the United States, people say it costs $245,340 to raise a child for 18 years.  For another thing, taking care of a child is a lot of hard work.  You have to cook their food, buy their clothes, take them to school, and more.  I also don’t want to get a dog, because taking care of a dog is hard work.  Finally, kids are just loud and annoying.

Topic Sentence:
First Supporting Idea:
Example:
Second Supporting Idea:
Example:
Third Supporting Idea:
Example:

Paragraph B
There are many reasons why you should walk to work instead of drive.  First of all, it is cheaper, because you don’t have to pay for gasoline.  An average American can save $500 walking to work.  Second of all, it’s much healthier.  You can get exercise every day while you walk.  Finally, and most importantly, it’s good for the environment.  But if it rains, then it’s not so convenient.

Topic Sentence:
First Supporting Idea:
Example:
Second Supporting Idea:
Example:
Third Supporting Idea:
Example:


Paragraph C
There are many advantages to using the Internet.  For starters, it is a great way to keep up on the news.  Many news organizations, such as CNN, and BBC, have their own websites.  Secondly, the Internet is great for keeping in touch with friends.  I use the websites such as Facebook to contact my old friends daily.  Finally, the Internet is great for entertainment.  There are lots of videos, comics, and stories that you can read online for free.  But if you use the Internet too much, it will hurt your eyes.

Topic Sentence:
First Supporting Idea:
Example:
Second Supporting Idea:
Example:
Third Supporting Idea:
Example:

Answers:
Paragraph A
I don’t want to have kids.  For one thing, having kids costs a lot of money.  For example in the United States, people say it costs $245,340 to raise a child for 18 years.  For another thing, taking care of a child is a lot of hard work.  You have to cook their food, buy their clothes, take them to school, and more.  I also don’t want to get a dog, because taking care of a dog is hard work.  Finally, kids are just loud and annoying.

Topic Sentence: I don’t want to have kids.
First Supporting Idea: For one thing, having kids costs a lot of money.
Example:  For example in the United States, people say it costs $245,340 to raise a
child for 18 years.
Second Supporting Idea: For another thing, taking care of a child is a lot of hard work.
Example: You have to cook their food, buy their clothes, take them to school, and
more.
Third Supporting Idea:  Finally, kids are just loud and annoying.
Example: No example here.  Which is okay.   Although some ideas should be supported by examples, it is not strictly necessary to have an example for every supporting idea.

Misplaced sentence: I also don’t want to get a dog, because taking care of a dog is hard work.
The topic sentence states that this paragraph is about not having kids.  Not wanting a dog is a different topic altogether, and can not be placed in this sentence.

Paragraph B
There are many reasons why you should walk to work instead of drive.  First of all, it is cheaper, because you don’t have to pay for gasoline.  An average American can save $500 walking to work.  Second of all, it’s much healthier.  You can get exercise every day while you walk.  Finally, and most importantly, it’s good for the environment.  But if it rains, then it’s not so convenient.

Topic Sentence: There are many reasons why you should walk to work instead of drive.
First Supporting Idea: First of all, it is cheaper, because you don’t have to pay for
gasoline.
Example:   An average American can save $500 walking to work.
Second Supporting Idea: Second of all, it’s much healthier.
Example: You can get exercise every day while you walk.
Third Supporting Idea: Finally, and most importantly, it’s good for the environment.
Example: No example here.  

Misplaced Sentence: But if it rains, then it’s not so convenient.
Although this sentence is still about walking to work, the topic sentence specified “the reasons why you should walk”.  Reasons why you shouldn’t walk belong in a different paragraph.

Paragraph C
There are many advantages to using the Internet.  For starters, it is a great way to keep up on the news.  Many news organizations, such as CNN, and BBC, have their own websites.  Secondly, the Internet is great for keeping in touch with friends.  I use the websites such as Facebook to contact my old friends daily.  Finally, the Internet is great for entertainment.  There are lots of videos, comics, and stories that you can read online for free.  But if you use the Internet too much, it will hurt your eyes.

Topic Sentence: There are many advantages to using the Internet.
First Supporting Idea: For starters, it is a great way to keep up on the news.
Example: Many news organizations, such as CNN, and BBC, have their own websites.
Second Supporting Idea: Secondly, the Internet is great for keeping in touch with
friends.
Example: I use the websites such as Facebook to contact my old friends daily.
Third Supporting Idea: There are lots of videos, comics, and stories that you can read
online for free.
Example: But if you use the Internet too much, it will hurt your eyes.

Misplaced Sentence:But if you use the Internet too much, it will hurt your eyes.
Although this sentence is still about the Internet, the topic sentence specified “the advantages to using the Internet”.  Disadvantages belong in a different paragraph.


Now, you try.  With your group, fill in the outline for the following paragraphs.

Topic Sentence: Too much homework is not good.
Supporting Idea:
Example:
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:


Topic Sentence: Dogs are better pets than cats.
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:
Topic Sentence: Everyone should wear a hat.
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:

(your own idea here)
Topic Sentence:
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:
SI:
Ex:




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