Top 3 Ways to Reteach Body Paragraph Writing in Middle School


Use 1 or all 3 of these ideas to reteach your middle school students how to write body paragraphs in an essay!

I teach a class of learning strategies for middle school students who need more support with their core classes.  My students generally tell me that their core classes move "too fast".  So I work to help them "catch up" by taking more time on the concepts with which they need more practice.

Right now, this concept is writing body paragraphs for an essay.  We first took notes using the mnemonic of ACE IT (You can read more about that by clicking here), but even after providing some modeling and practice, there were still missing pieces of understanding.  What to do?

1.  Reteach Body Paragraph Structure by highlighting/underlining the key parts of a model body paragraph.

I took the model introduction paragraph and body paragraph from our notes and wrote them all out. I wanted them to see what it would look like in paragraph form.  Then, I handed out some colored pencils and asked them to underline the topic sentence in green, the evidence in orange, the commentary in yellow, and the transitions in blue.

Underneath that model was a "skeleton" of the next two body paragraphs with many blanks to fill in.  I decided to scaffold what might go in the blanks with the next activity.

2.  Reteach the body paragraph structure by breaking apart a model body paragraph into sentence strips.

I took the next body paragraph and wrote it out with lots of blanks to fill in.  Then I wrote out each sentence that would go in those blanks on its own strip. Next, I asked students to work with their team, the underlined model, and their notes, to arrange the strips in order as they should appear in the body paragraph.  

Teams earned points for every sentence that was in the correct place.  The winning team earned a coveted class prize - class coupons!  :)

After sharing the correct order of sentences on the Doc Cam, students had to fill in their blanks.  

Before setting them off to finish their very last body paragraph, we played a game to solidify their understanding.

3.  Reteach body paragraph structure by playing an interactive game called "Slide".

Two rows of students face each other.  One row has the questions on index cards with answers.  The other row must answer the questions.  As a pair faces one another, if a student answers correctly, they switch places.  Soon, I called "Slide!" and the answer people move one space to the right to face a new partner with a new question.  I keep calling "Slide" until I believe that all questions and answers have been revealed enough times.

I asked questions like "What should the first sentence of commentary be about?  and "How do you know what your body paragraph should be about?"

The students absolutely loved being active in this game.  I loved that they had a lot of exposure to the content.

To do all of these things, I used my notes from my Informative Essay Unit and then built the rest off of that.  However, those notes are not required to be able to do these things.  I even put them together for you here:

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When your middle school students don't "get it" try these activities that worked for me!