How to Write a Good Topic Sentence: A Lesson Plan on Writing Topic Sentences with the Elements of a Good Topic Sentence

Writing Topic Sentences Lesson Plan and Notes


A good topic sentence serves as a foundation for a good paragraph. A bad topic sentence serves as the foundation for most student writing. Let’s change that now!


No, He Couldn’t

Even linguistically gifted students struggle with self esteem. Barry’s verbal and public speaking skills amazed, which was why I was so surprised the day I saw him at lunch, head in hands, unwilling to say anything. I sat beside him and asked what was the problem.

“I’m stupid,” he said

“No, you’re not,” I countered, “you’re the smartest kid in the class and easily the best speaker. I see you being a great leader some day.”

“But I can’t even write a good topic sentence.”

“It’s the only thing you can’t do. We’ll remedy that tomorrow.” I stayed late that night, preparing the best writing a good topic sentence lesson I could come up with. I’m not sure what happened to that student. I’ll have to look him up. His real name was Barrack or something like that.

Here’s the lesson plan.

Common Core Standards

Teaching topic sentences satisfies the following common core standards.

W.9-10.1a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

W.9-10.1c  Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

W.9-10.3a Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

W.9-10.4  Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

L.9-10.1a  Use parallel structure.

What is a Topic Sentence

Start by discussing the following.  You may want to have students copy this information before they do the assignment.

The topic sentence contains the central idea around which a paragraph is developed. A good one has the following six characteristics:

  1. It introduces the topic of a paragraph without announcing it.
  2. It hooks the reader.
  3. It plants questions in the readers’ mind.
  4. It uses thought-provoking words.
  5. It is usually the first sentence; however, it can occur anywhere in the paragraph or it can be implied.
  6. It provides a transition from the previous paragraph.


Not all topic sentences will contain every single characteristic. A writer should strive for the ideal; the ideal, however, is not always ideal.

Topic Sentence Lesson Plan

Procedures

  1. Have students read their rough draft or one of their previous essays.
  2. Instruct them to highlight each topic sentence.
  3. Identify which characteristics each topic sentence contains.
  4. Revise topic sentence.
  5. I find it best to practice some revising together first. You can come up with your own or steal mine:


Original: Columbus was an explorer in the 1400s.
Revision: Travel has changed since the days of Columbus.

Original: People waste time
Revision: Some pass time moving from one incomplete task to another, spending too little time with loved ones, investing too little time in physical and mental self-improvement, and treading water financially.

Original: I don’t like diapers even though I love my children.
Revision: I love my children, but I hate changing their poopy diapers (especially when my dog runs off with it), but there’s one diaper I didn’t mind changing; ironically, it was the most difficult diaper-change ever, requiring 17 wipes and a blow torch.

Original: I had a very bright student long ago.
Revision: Even linguistically gifted geniuses struggle with self esteem.

Lessons on Paragraph Writing

Here are some more lesson plans and lesson ideas for writing paragraphs. 

  1. Writing Topic Sentences
  2. Teaching Paragraph Structure
  3. Using Transitions Effectively
  4. Paragraph Challenge
  5. The Methods of Paragraph Development
  6. Paragraph Writing
  7. Using Supporting Details Effectively
  8. How to Revise and Grade an Essay