Friday, April 19, 2013

Stoplight Paragraphs: Helping Structure Writing


 My students spent a long time on narrative and fiction writing, ad it was time to move on to non-fiction. While my students are working on non-fiction writing, I wanted to really zone in on structure.  I used to edit papers in college and graduate school and I cannot tell you how many people do not know how to structure writing! If I can begin the process of good structure, I am a happy teacher.

To teach the concept I used the Stoplight Paragraph method. 
I found this great image on Greenville Unified's Website.

The basic gist is:
Green= Topic Sentence, go
Yellow= Supporting Details, slow down
Red= Closing Sentence, stop

In order to introduce this concept to my students, we did a shared writing activity about cookies. I wanted to topic to be simple and engaging. Who doesn't love cookies?

First we made a quick bubble map of all the things that we knew about cookies. 


After we filled out our thinking map, I asked students to vote on the three things we wanted to put in our paragraph. I then took out our shared writing paper, and wrote the three sentences under "supporting details." At this point I explained to the students to concept of a stoplight paragraph: In every there is a topic sentence telling you what the paragraph is about, supporting details that add details about the topic, and a closing sentence that retells what the paragraph was about. 

The cookie facts that we had voted on were our supporting details: Chocolate chip cookies are chocolaty, they're delicious, and they're sweet.  I highlighted them in yellow. Now came the tough part: figuring out a topic sentence that covered all of our details. At first they offered ideas that covered only one detail, like, "Cookies are made of sugar" or "There are chocolate chips in cookies." I asked them to think: "What do all of these facts tell you about cookies?"



They thought for a while and then the hands shot up. I got several more accurate ideas, "Cookies taste sweet," but we decided as a class that "Cookies are fantastic to eat" was the most appropriate.

Once we wrote that in green for the topic sentence, I asked them to think of another way to say our topic sentence. One of my funnier students raised his hand and said, "Cookies are yummy in my tummy?" The whole class loved it, so we wrote it in red for the closing sentence. Now that they were exposed to the concept, they were ready for their own non-fiction writing next week.

Does anyone else use stoplight paragraphs? How do you introduce it?

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