Terrific Topic Sentences

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Language Arts, Writing, Writing Process, Traits of Writing

Grade 3- 5


Students write paragraphs with topic sentences that capture their reader's attention. They create sentences from writing prompts and restate sentences as questions, commands, or exclamations.


A topic sentence states a paragraph's main idea. It also serves to capture the reader's attention. Most expository paragraphs begin with declarative sentences, but a writer can add variety by starting with a question, command, or interjection that expresses strong feelings or emotions. This lesson is designed to give students practice in writing topic sentences that make main ideas clear and also appealing to their audience.

I. Lesson Introduction
A. Begin the lesson with a discussion about whales. Talk about their size, where whales live, and how these creatures interact with humans. Ask volunteers to create a declarative sentence, interrogative sentence, imperative sentence, and an exclamatory sentence using the topic
"killer whales" (orcas). Explain to the pupils that a topic sentence needs to be interesting and attention-getting. Most expository writing begins with topic sentences that are declarative, or statements. Sometimes a writer will add variety to a piece by beginning with a question, command, or interjection that expresses emotion.
B. Direct the learners to read the paragraph about whales that goes with this lesson. Have them locate and state the topic sentence. Next, the pupils will brainstorm and attempt to restate that sentence in the form of a question, command, or exclamation. A group of sample responses is provided.
II. Lesson Body
A. Introduce the lesson practice worksheet. The students will be given writing prompts and then asked to create a list of topic sentences. Declarative statements will be acceptable for these exercises. When these statements are given, the writers are asked to transform each into a question, command, or exclamation.
B. A review of the four types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory) and end punctuation may be necessary (page 41). Remind the students that most expository writing begins with declarative sentences, but writers will occasionally vary their styles and use questions, commands, and exclamations to maintain interest and challenge their audiences.
C. For reinforcement and reteaching, first gather together a collection of newspapers and periodicals. Have the pupils identify a story of interest and then state its topic sentence. After that, practice transforming these into questions, commands, and exclamations.
D. Extend the lesson by using these articles to practice summary writing skills. Also practice writing conclusion sentences in the form of questions, commands, or exclamations. This will provide a unique way to end compositions.
III. Lesson Conclusion
A. Close the lesson by having the pupils restate the purpose of a topic sentence. They must also list different strategies that can be applied to make topic sentences more interesting and attractive to their audience. Students will be asked to employ these techniques in future writing assignments.
B. Writing Applications: Whales like the orca, dolphin, and porpoise are often trained to entertain or assist humans with certain water-related tasks. Instruct the students to write a paragraph about an animal that performs in a show or is trained to work with people for a common goal. It may be an animal with which they have had personal experience or one observed at a circus, water park, or on television. Tell them to begin by stating topic sentences in the form of questions, commands, or exclamations.
C. Publishing Project:
1. Group students together that have written about the same or similar animals. Have them read their compositions to each other and then share their reactions and feelings within the small group.
2. Computer Connection: Many animal theme parks, zoos, and circuses have home pages listed on the Internet. Allow the pupils to locate and view a few of these Web sites to help them research further information for their writing applications.
IV. Evaluation:
A. Use the discussion questions and worksheets to measure student progress and skill mastery.
B. Writing Applications: Use the four-point rubric scale to determine if students can independently, can usually, or require assistance to write detailed descriptions of familiar, persons, places, objects, or experiences.


  • Worksheet #1 (page 42)
  • Worksheet #2 (page 43)
  • newspapers and other periodicals

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