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How to Write a Paragraph

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Mother helping daughter with homework
Roberto Westbrook/Blend Images/Getty Images

Organizing thoughts into a coherent piece of writing can be a daunting task for children with learning disabilities. The best way to pin those ideas down and put them into a form that others can follow is to use an outline. The tried-and-true I-II-III A-B-C outline works whether your child has to churn out a paragraph, a page or a paper. Here's how to use it for a strong single paragraph; see also instructions for a five-paragraph essay and a research paper.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: As much as your child needs

Here's How:

  1. Write the numbers 1-5 on a piece of paper.
  2. Next to #1, write your answer to the question, or your opinion on the topic, in a complete sentence. For example, if asked to write a paragraph about your favorite person, you might write, "My favorite person is my mother."
  3. Next to #2, write one reason in support of your answer. For example, on the favorite person paragraph, you might write, "She knows how to help with homework."
  4. Next to #3, write another reason in support of your answer. You might write, "She takes me wherever I need to go."
  5. Next to #4, write a third reason in support of your answer. You might write, "She is very good at reading stories."
  6. Next to #5, rephrase your answer or opinion from #1. You might write, "My mother is a wonderful person to me."
  7. Copy your sentences #1-#5, one after the other, on your final sheet of paper. And there you have it -- a coherent five-sentence paragraph: "My favorite person is my mother. She knows how to help with homework. She takes me wherever I need to go. She is very good at reading stories. My mother is a wonderful person to me."
  8. The example used here is a very simple paragraph for an early elementary assignment, but the same technique can be used for a more advanced open-ended question. Just answer the question in the first sentence; write one reason for that answer in the second; another reason in the third sentence; a third reason in the fourth sentence; and rephrase your answer for the fifth sentence.

Tips:

  1. It may help to brainstorm before writing the sentences. On a piece of scratch paper, jot down any ideas at all in support of your answer. You may even want to brainstorm reasons for a number of answers, and then pick the answer with the strongest support. Pick three of your ideas and turn them into sentences for your outline.
  2. Graphic organizers can also be helpful in turning up ideas. Try a concept web, with your answer in the middle and ideas in all the little bubbles.
  3. If the teacher is asking for a paragraph of six or seven sentences, simply add more reasons.

What You Need:

  • Scratch paper for the #1-#5 list and for any brainstorming.
  • A piece of paper for the final paragraph
  • Pen or pencil

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