Writing a paragraph

I have been reading lots of paragraphs lately written by international students. One of the things that I have realised is that students’ paragraph writing can improve a lot after just a little bit of work! The more you write paragraphs, the better your paragraphs are! I’ve also been looking at those great writing resources at La Trobe University. The resources that they have there show the structure of a good paragraph:

TOPIC SENTENCE

followed by

SUPPORTING SENTENCE(S)

followed by

CONCLUDING SENTENCE

When you look at it like this, it looks rather like the structure of a whole essay:

INTRODUCTION

MAIN PARAGRAPHS

CONCLUSION

You just can’t get away from this rigid framework in Academic English! Here’s the example paragraph from La Trobe:

TOPIC SENTENCE: Strategies that ESL students can use to improve their listening include putting themselves in situations where people are speaking conversational English and listening  to radio news on a daily basis.

FIRST SUPPORTING IDEA: Firstly ESL students can go regularly to places where English is spoken. For example on the La Trobe campus students might sit in the coffee shops in the Agora or the Union and discreetly listen in on conversation other native speakers are having. By doing this they are not only being exposed to everyday vocabulary and conversational English, but they are also hearing Australian English pronunciation which may be new to them. Buses, trains or trams are other places to “eavesdrop” or listen in to conversations to help develop listening.

SECOND SUPPORTING IDEA: A second thing students can do to improve their listening skills is to tune into the radio news each day. Many stations provide hourly news bulletins which are often a repeat of the earlier broadcast. This means students get the chance to check what they heard the first time. To assist their comprehension students can also buy a copy of a daily newspaper and see if the news story is covered in print. At first radio news might seem quite difficult. However by listening regularly students will quickly  find they are understanding more and more.

CONCLUDING SENTENCE: These two activities, if practised regularly, should soon help newly arrived ESL students improve their ability to understand spoken English.

Language and Academic Skills, La Trobe University,  Available from http://www.latrobe.edu.au/lasesl/writing.html Accessed: 3/11/09

Put these ideas together into one long paragraph and you have a well developed paragraph: the main idea comes very clearly in the topic sentence and is then supported by the following information, and the whole thing is rounded off by a mini conclusion.

Read the whole excellent unit at La Trobe here.

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