Phase 5 Paragraph Writing (Composing Think Aloud)

Once the students have had some time to generate sentences as a group, and practicing them for fluency, it is time to have them classify and compose paragraphs.

 Students will naturally classify by structure and mechanics (Starts with The, They, # of words in the sentence, capitals ,) but it is very  important that they begin to categorize the sentences by content because these categories are necessary for generating good paragraphs.

I like to have the students name an important component in the photograph-in this case let’s say sharks. Then the students look carefully for all the sentences that talk about the sharks. We take the sentences about sharks and write down the # of each sentence onto chart paper under the title sharks. I tell the students that this is a category and the title is sharks.I expain my thinking as to how I chose the sentences. This is the kind of metacognitive thinking I want my students to develop. Then I ask students to see if there are any other sentence categories. With young children ( k-1) I might keep this as a group activity initially. As the students are able to read more on their own, I like to lean more to letting them find the categories on their own. After a cycle or two, even kindergarten and grade one and two students will be able to do this inductively. Gradual release of responsibility!!!

Once many categories have been generated by the students and the teacher over a few days, and are shared with the class, the teacher composes a paragraph. Emily Calhoun calls this a Composing Think Aloud. This composing think aloud is based o the people in the water. Ll the student sentences about the people are used to build the paragraph. Sentence combining and varied sentence starters are introduced. With younger children I write each sentences in a different colour. This helps to visualize how sentences sweep back and forth across the page and that sentences do not end at the ned of the page.

The teacher shares their own paragraph with the students, showing the category they used and sharing their thinking as the writer. It provides a good model to help students move toward practice of their own. It also demonstrates the thinking that is involved as a writer writes for his reader. In early grades this may be forming categories together and titling them.  The students will choose sentences which they think will go together and add a title. The teacher must make sure to model several paragraphs every cycle. It is important to have students share their categories, their paragraphs, and their thinking as often as possible. We want students to practice reading these paragraphs orally to increase fluency as well as to gain a comfortable understanding of basic paragraph construction.