With the paragraph challenge lesson plan, the pen truly is mightier than the sword when it comes to crushing the competition.
Competition Brings Out The Best in Students
This simple activity motivates students to write better paragraphs more often. It eliminates the need to grade every single assignment. It helps writers of all levels work on a specific aspect of writing without the need to criticize every little fault. It focuses on the positive and publicly rewards students for quality work. Although nothing will replace your expertise, the paragraph challenge allows more time to grade formal writing and essay tests, and prepare students for standardized writing exams.
Common Core Standards
This lesson plan for writing and evaluating paragraphs satisfies the following common core standards and establishes the basis for teaching all the common core standards in writing for all grade levels.
- W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- 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.9-10.2b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic. W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings); grap
- W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.) hics (e.g., figures, tables); and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- W.9-10.3c Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole.
- W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Paragraph Challenge Lesson Plan Procedures
- Assign a writing topic. Paragraphs are most effective for this activity (hence, paragraph challenge lesson plan). Each student should write on the same broad topic.
- Tell students their paragraph will be read to the class anonymously and evaluated publicly.
- Assign completion points if desired, but do NOT grade them. Sometimes I collect them at the end of class, assign a few points for completion, and give them back the next class. Sometimes I do a walk by check and assign completion points. The key is to reward students for doing something (especially early on and especially with non-proficient writers).
- Instruct students to clear everything off their desks except their completed paragraph.
- Assign students in groups of four or let them choose their groups.
- Have students read their paragraph out loud to their group members. Allow them to make changes as they read.
- Have the group rank each paragraph 1-4 (optional).
- Read one paragraph from each group. They can be chosen at random or by ranking.
- Go over the strengths of each paragraph, focusing on anything specific they need to learn.
- Have the class vote for the top 3 paragraphs.
- Assign points: 5 points for 1st; 3 points for 2nd; 1 point for third.
- Continue until time runs out or there are no more paragraphs to read.
- Draw a tournament bracket on the board. Teams will go head to head.
- Read one paragraph from team 1 and one paragraph from team 2.
- Let students argue for each paragraph. For example, why is paragraph 1 better? What specifically makes paragraph 2 more effective?
- Tell students to vote on the winner. You vote too.
- The winning paragraph moves on to the next round
- Repeat until there’s a winner.
- Have the losing teams compete in a consolation bracket.
Fun and Challenging Lesson Plans
If you enjoyed this challenge, you may want to try another.
Lessons on Paragraph Writing
Here are some more lesson plans and lesson ideas for writing paragraphs. Each lesson plan contains discussion/notes information, lesson procedures, and a list of ELA Common Core Standards in case your administrator shows up.
- Writing Topic Sentences
- Teaching Paragraph Structure
- Using Transitions Effectively
- Paragraph Challenge
- The Methods of Paragraph Development
- Using Supporting Details Effectively
- How to Revise and Grade an Essay
I’ve taken these lesson plans and added notes, graphic organizers, and more lesson options to create what I consider an invaluable resource for middle school and high school teachers. It’s only $5.95.
It includes 10 lesson plans aligned to common core standards, notes, and over 15 assignments with answer keys. All you need to do is print out each assignment, make copies, and pass them out. Here’s a Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan to give you an idea of what the paragraph teaching guide has to offer.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to make your own handouts and assignments that took me weeks to make and years to perfect.