Topic Sentence: Where does it go?

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SWBAT match topic sentences to an informational paragraph.

Big Idea

Get students thinking about connecting sentences to topics in a fun and active lesson.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection and Lesson Overview

W1.8 (Research Writing) is the standard I am concentrating on a this lesson. This is the third lesson that develops writing based on research and support from the teacher.  So, I break this standard down into many parts. The first part is to analyze what a topic sentence is supposed to do and how they are specific to the paragraph. Then I move on to creating a topic sentence of their own from the research they are analyzing. Next, comes sorting out all the information to decide what is important. Last, the students analyze closing sentences, and finally create their own closing sentence.

I chose Web Weavers for the guided practice, and then I selected Spooky Spiders for the partner work. I cut the topic sentence off each paragraph and my students match the correct topic sentence. Both text come from the Read Works Passages.

The students work in small groups (Peanut Butter Jelly Partner) in a whole group setting to determine why an author uses a topic sentence, how they help the reader, and how to create one. Then the class creates several based on sample paragraphs. The partner work section allows the students to match specific topic sentences to their paragraph. 

The students work with their Peanut Butter Jelly Partner and Transition often. I have a video on both in the resources. I also use a great deal of positive reinforcements.  I use Positive Positive Reinforcement: Mr. Potato, tickets, and free choice time for individual students who have a shorter attention span.  I have a video on Mr. Potato and the Tickets, but there are two pictures of students at their free choice station  (Promethean Free TimePositive Reinforcement:Shopping, and Help My Teacher Free Time:Sharpen Pencils). After about twenty minutes, certain students get a break. This motivates them to persevere.

Introductory Activity

I project a topic sentence and a detail on the board (Board Set Up). Then I ask my students to discuss which one is a topic sentence and why. This is how I assess their prior knowledge. Its okay it nobody knows. This just means I have to work extra hard to focus the students on how to identify and create a topic sentence in the lesson. Then I give random students a topic sentence we wrote and they have to match it to one of our previous paragraphs. I just cut of the top sentence. This connects the lesson to our previous lessons. I have a video on how we do this and pictures.

I actually have a video on the Introductory Activity. It might make things more clear. I also have a image of our work (Finished Introductory Activity).

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I begin this section by allowing the students to discuss, "What is a topic sentence?" The next question they discuss is,"How does the topics sentence help the reader?" The third thing the students discuss is, "How do author's create topic sentences.?"

We go through the same procedures after each question. Somebody shares aloud, and then we have a class discussion to agree or disagree. Then students also justify why they agree or disagree.

Then I share this really cool website I found. I put it on the Smart Board and simply recap what we already discussed. Then I refer to this on the Smart Board for this lesson and the next lesson as we really analyze what a topic sentence does and should look like. (I do stop at the part where they look at the paragraph because it is fiction.)

Now, I have selected several paragraphs that I have displayed in front of each group. I added a video explanation of this activity. They work with the partner to decide which topic sentence goes with each paragraph. We go through them one at a time. I say, "Look at number one. Talk to your partner about what topic sentence goes with that paragraph? Then somebody shares and justifies why this sentence goes with the paragraph. The rest of the class agrees or disagrees. We have a discussion and I match the topic sentence to the paragraph model on the board. The groups do the same at their desks. We now go through the same procedures to match paragraph two through three with their topic sentence.

I have a video (Guided Practice) that explains this section. The text for this section is Web Weavers, and I use text with similar topics to deepen their content knowledge.

I do have some specific questions I ask to guide the class to the correct answer, since many students seem to create a too broad or too specific topic sentence.

  • Is that a detail?
  • Does the topic sentence say what all the details said in one statement?
  • Does your topic sentence connect to all of your details in the paragraph?

Partner Work

20 minutes

Student Reflection

5 minutes

In this section is about speaking and listening. I select one or two groups read their work to the class. Then the students who were listening give their peers very specific feedback on whether they agree or disagree with their choices and why. This type of evaluation has taken all year to develop, because it is very challenging and requires a lot of higher order thinking.


5 minutes

This is when I try to assess my students knowledge, and I like to promote speaking and listening. So, I ask the students to talk to their partner about why an author uses a topic sentence. Hopefully they will say to tell the reader what the paragraph is about. But, I listen and share some of their conversations. Then I share what I hoped they learned.  

Last, I restate the lesson goal. We chant it three times to reiterate the focus of the lesson.