Write English Paragraphs
Writing Skills: organisation, sentence fluency
The other day, I asked my ESL students to read a newspaper story and write a summary.
Their writing was terrible. The grammar was okay, but the paragraph structure was poor. So, I developed a mini lesson to help students understand the purpose and structure of a paragraph.
Step 1 Introduction
What is a paragraph? It’s a group of sentences that present one idea. It’s an idea plus facts or information.
Here is the basic structure of a paragraph.
1 The first sentence tells the reader the main idea.
2 The next three of four sentences give the reader your reasons. Or evidence. Or details.
3 The last sentence is a conclusion, or a lead into the next paragraph.
Step 2 What Inside a Paragraph?
The middle of the paragraph provides reasons, examples or details. I call this the RED part of the paragraph. Why RED? Well, because it tells you what needs to be included.
- R – reasons; why something happens.
- E – evidence; help the reader believe your idea by giving them proof
- D – details; talk about the size, shape, color and so on to give the reader a picture of your idea.
Step 3 Example
Here’s an example of a paragraph. Does it present reasons, evidence or details?
Last week, the USS George Washington visited the port city of Busan, South Korea as part of the US involvement in local war games exercises. With a crew of almost 6300 people, this enormous aircraft carrier is like a floating city. From front to back, the ship is almost 340 meters long (about three soccer fields), 78 m wide and 77 m in height. One of the most powerful ships ever built, it can hold up to 80 aircraft. The USS George Washington is a nuclear powered warship, which means it can sail 3 million nautical miles without stopping for fuel. This super carrier was built in 1992 at a cost of $4.5 billion USD.
This paragraph gives readers details about a US aircraft carrier. It talks about the size, energy source and cost.
If we wanted to write about different things, we could write a paragraph that explains why the USS George Washington is in Busan (reasons). Or, a paragraph that compares this warship with others to show how it is the biggest and most powerful (evidence).
Step 4 Practice
Now try the RED writing system.
Here is a topic sentence.
“Walking down the street I noticed a new bookstore had opened in my neighborhood.”
Write three different paragraphs:
1 one that gives reasons
2 one that provides examples
3 one that provides details
If you want to show the class some examples (after they have completed their writing), this worksheet download page has three different paragraphs.
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