Today Jacob entered my classroom shortly after I had dismissed my students. They have their first test tomorrow, and so I used most of the period for a group exercise at the blackboards. Jacob gazed at the blackboards filled with outlines of answers to short essay questions which the students in groups had prepared.
After giving the students guidance on what to study, I had sent them to the boards to outline answers to the possible short essay questions. I required them, using their books and notes, to list four to eight details which would serve as the contents of the paragraph. After they had completed this, I required them to draft a Topic Sentence. The key to writing a good paragraph is to start with a general statement—the TS—and to follow this with details. This is the fundamental principle, or “science,” of good expository writing. The art of the writing comes into play by deciding which details are necessary to develop the TS, in what order should they be written, how many details are sufficient, and the best possible words to choose for the TS. There is no one perfect TS for a given body of details; however, there are many poor TSs that are possible. A concluding summary sentence is not necessary. Also, be sure to answer the entire question.
I have found that this teaching format serves a number of objectives. It:
Forces the students to review the important content
Helps prepare them for the test
Gets students talking to each other and teaching each other.
It gets their bodies moving, stirring them from their seats.