I rarely leave my driveway without knowing my destination. In fact, I often have it on my GPS to make sure I find the most efficient route. If I didn't, I would waste time and money roaming all over town using gas I could have saved. In some cases, I may never find my destination at all. Imagine being invited to a new acquaintance's house and telling her, "No thanks, I don't need your address. I'll just wing it and eventually get there." Of course that's silly, but we often do the same thing in our writing. We start out our journey through a paragraph with no idea where we're heading.
Paragraphs in scholarly writing need a solid wrap up sentence to anchor the main point and keep the writer from rambling.
Topic sentences are starting points for your paragraphs, but in order to build a solid paragraph, writers should consider the final sentence, the wrap up or concluding thought for the paragraph, before planning the sentences in between.
I realize this is unconventional. We usually write one sentence after the other in the order they appear, but without giving thought to the destination of our ideas, we risk being distracted by every detail that pops into our minds. Perhaps as an adult writer, you can resist such urges, but imagine writing with the mind of a twelve year old struggling with learning disabilities. That child needs all the help he can get to stay focused and on track to develop clear and concise ideas with effective elaboration.
When we plan a trip, our destination drives our route. The same is true in paragraph writing. Giving thought to the final sentence of a paragraph will help young writers focus on relevant examples to elaborate their ideas inside the body of their little masterpieces. While the paragraph is a coherent unit centered around a single idea, its parts must each intentionally support that main idea. Each sentence is composed individually with a mind toward that one key idea, and anchoring the idea at the beginning and end will make filling in the middle a much simpler task.
Example Topic Sentence:
Regular exercise promotes a healthy outlook on life.
Notice the topic sentence is short and to the point. If you stick with this blog, you'll see why in a post coming soon.
Example Wrap Up Sentence:
Those who make exercise a matter of habit tend to see their own futures with optimism.
Notice the wrap up sentence is longer and more fully developed. Usually, these sentences will give a hint to the writer about what type of examples to use when writing the middle of the paragraph: 1) make it a habit 2) see future optimistically. We'll cover that in a future post as well.
Note the caveat in my thesis for this post: Paragraphs in scholarly writing need a solid wrap up sentence to anchor the main point and keep the writer from rambling.
Were you looking at my paragraphs trying to find the topic and wrap up sentences? Well, they are there, but not as they would be in an expository, scholarly essay. When we write for academic purposes, we follow certain conventions that don't always apply to less formal settings, such as a conversational style blog. These scholarly pieces tend to stump both students and teacher, especially in a context where teachers may feel under-qualified to train their young scholars. I hope you've found a nugget to guide you as the instructor to help your young ones organize their thoughts and wrap it up.