Lesson: Narrative Writing: Writing Topic Sentences

Susan Fields Epiphany School, Ma Dorchester Center, MA
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Lesson Objective

Objective: SWBAT define topic sentence and generate suitable topic sentences that state the main idea of their paragraphs.

Lesson Plan



What is a paragraph? (group of sentences that has 1 main idea, topic sentence, 3-8 supp. details, concluding sentence)


            Today, we're going to focus on topic sentences.  Remember what happens to a hamburger without a top bun? (It's hard to bite into.) That's what happens to a paragraph without a topic sentence.  It's hard to get your bearings and understand what the story will be about.


Introduction to New Material:

          Teacher reviews definition of topic sentence and asks many students to repeat it verbatim.  (A topic sentence is a sentence that states the main idea of a paragraph.  The main idea of a paragraph is the overall point of the paragraph.)


Guided Practice:

Teacher asks students to help her generate main ideas and topic sentences for several paragraphs.  (I usually give them paragraphs they have already seen, so they are familiar with the story and main idea.)

Students read "Purple Problem" with topic sentence blotted out.  Teacher asks, "What's the main idea of this paragraph?"  (Students give various answers, most of which will probably be incorrect.  Keep going back to the definition of main idea.  "That's a supporting detail.  What's the overall point of this story?") (Eventually, the students will get to the right answer: the main idea is trouble in orchestra class.) 

Teacher requests, "Now, turn this main idea (trouble in orchestra class) into a complete sentence." Teacher may choose to really break this down. Teacher writes "trouble in orchestra class" on the board and edits it as the class goes through the following steps:

1.     What must a complete sentence have? (subject, verb, express a complete thought.)

2.     Does this main idea phrase have a subject? (no)  A verb? (no) Express a complete thought?  (no)

3.     So, first let's make it a sentence.  We need to add a subject and verb and make sure it expresses a complete thought.

Subject? (I) Teacher adds I to "trouble in orchestra class" on the board.

Verb? (got) Teacher adds got to the phrase on the board.

Express a complete thought? (I got in trouble in orchestra class.)

4.     Okay, now does it make sense as a topic sentence?  What could we add to make sure it expresses the overall point of the text? During orchestra class, I once got in trouble.


Teacher and students repeat this process with another paragraph that topic sentence blotted out ("Hairy Haircut").   


Independent Practice:

          Students compose a suitable topic sentence for their own narratives.




What would you change?

∙  As with all lessons regarding main idea, writing topic sentences takes A LONG time for kids to absorb.  They need lots of practice in different contexts (multiple subjects).  They also need a lot of instruction in complete sentences before this lesson.  A lot of kids tend to write fragments for topic sentences.  Additionally, kids also tend to write a supporting detail as a topic sentence.  These are areas that I include in another lesson "troubleshooting topic sentences." 





Lesson Resources

Purple Problem missing topic sentence  
Hairy Haircut topic sentence  


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