I teach the Stoplight Method for paragraph writing. Students will learn that Green means GO! Start with a topic sentence. Yellow means Slow Down… and share the important details. Red means STOP! Make a closing or conclusion sentence that wraps the paragraph up.
The Paragraph Song
Sung to the Tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider
Introduce the topic in a general way.
Next, you add 3 details of what you want to say.
Then you write a closer, put this sentence last.
Now you have completed,
You’re great paragraph!
I feel like this helps my students to grasp onto the concept. I like to next remind children how to indent by teaching them the thumb rule. I print out mini thumbs for them to stick on their papers the first time they try this, and remind them of this strategy throughout the year. It really helps it stick in the minds of my seven and eight year olds.
After we practice writing paragraphs, I introduce the research report. I let my students choose between a variety of science concepts to study. This gives them some choice, but still has focus. I bring my students through the process of note-taking, a discussion on citing sources and plagiarism, and the important elements of informative text.
Wanting my students to understand many non-fiction text features, I focused on several features for them to include in their research report as well. My children wrote a 3-4 paragraph essay, then went through and put five important words in bold print for their glossary, where they could define these words. Next they drew an illustration to match the report, included captions and labels and put on a title. At the end of the project, my students created their bibliography to cite the sources.
Check out our completed research reports below.
I put this up in the hallway for two reasons. One, to showcase my students beautiful work giving them pride in their work and an audience. The second purpose was for all other students around the school, putting up a "Can you find these non-fiction text features?" hunt for all children to learn!
Three examples of student work: