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Writing Lesson Plan

Writing Paragraphs:
Paragraphs which describe events in chronological order

Teacher: Jenet Jacob

Background Information:

This class is directed to students studying English at a level II, intermediate-low or intermediate-mid level. The lesson can be adapted to any English teaching setting but was intended for ESL students preparing for college, approximately 12 students in number in the class. Prior to this lesson, the students should have been taught the construction of a sentence and had opportunities to practice writing them. Inherent in the lesson is a need for an understanding of the simple future verb tense. The lesson is prepared to last approx 65 min.

Needed Materials:

  1. Overhead transparency and markers
  2. Telephone, disconnected
  3. Long, wide strips of computer paper (5" high, 25" long), if accessible 4,5 large markers.
  4. Notes with activities for a typical day in the life of a college student, or adapt to age group being taught, written in sketchy or note-like form for each student

    8:00--Class (homework!)
    9:30--Study group-- library
    12:30--Lunch: Cougareat -- Amy and Andrew
    5:00-running --pick up Alice

    At the top of this card should be written two lines with a empty box to the right of each. The lines should say: Topic sentence and Indentation


Warm up/Review: (5 min)

Tell the students to turn to the partner nearest them and ask them three questions about the day  before such as, "When did you wake up? What was you favorite thing about yesterday? When did you go to bed?" When both of the students have found out the answers to each others questions, they should quietly turn to the front of the room and look at the teacher. Tell them that today we are going to practice writing in the form of a paragraph things that happen over a period of time.

Introduction:: (5 min)

Sit in the front of the room at a desk with a telephone in front of you. Explain to the students that you are just about to receive a phone call. Because you do not have any paper or pencil, the students will be required to take notes on the information you receive over the telephone. They must listen carefully as they will not be able to hear both sides of the conversation. Preface the phone call by suggesting that you think it might be your boyfriend calling and telling you about a date you are going to have. The exciting thing is that your birthday is coming up and you have gotten the day off work so you can spend it however you want. Begin the conversation by saying "Hello, Oh Hello Brian.." or whatever name you want to use.  (You may make up the conversation as you go along.) The important thing is that you restate the information the pretend person on the other line gives you, such as, "Oh, you want to take me out on my birthday....Yeah, breakfast at 8:30 would be great...You'll pick me up?....Really, you want to take me to your house at 5:00p.m.? Then we could come back to my house at 6:00....?" The conversation should reveal details of dates, times and events that will occur during your birthday. There should be no more than 4 of 5 different times and events to describe.  The students should be taking notes on the conversation.

(10 min) When the conversation has ended, place a blank transparency on the overhead projector and ask the students what they have written down. Write their answers on the transparency exactly as they are given to you. Their responses will most likely  be in short, succinct phrases. When it seems that most of the information from the conversation has been gathered and rewritten on the overhead, tell the students you would like them to change these phrases into  complete sentences on their own papers. The sentences will be in the future. Examples include: Miss Jacob will go out to breakfast with Brian at 8:30 a.m.,etc.

(5 min) To make it faster, assign the different phrases to pairs of students who together will come up with the sentence, then write it down on their paper. Hand each pair a long strip of computer paper on which they can write their sentence in large print. When each group has finished, tell the students that now we must put the sentences together so that they express a complete idea.

Presentation: (5 min)

We call these groups of sentences, PARAGRAPHS. Write this word on the board. Have the students practice saying the word several times. Explain clearly that a paragraph is made up of several sentences. The sentences together talk about a MAIN IDEA. Explain that we are now going to combine all of the sentences which the students came up with into one paragraph that explains a main idea. Ask them to tell you what it is all the sentences are talking about. What do all of them take a part in describing? The answer should be something like, "your birthday," etc. Ask the students if they feel there should be any particular way that the sentences should be combined. See if they can come up with the word ORDER. Explain that in paragraphs, sentences must be combined in such a way that the reader can understand easily what is being said. This is done by using ORDER.  When we organize particular events in time the best order is usually CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. Define what this word means by drawing a time line on the board. We begin with the first event and proceed in time to the last event which will take place.

Practice/Evaluation: (12 min)

Explain that we are now going to make our own paragraph about Miss Jacob's birthday. Put "Miss Jacob's birthday" at the top of the chalk board. Then ask the students what they think ought to come first in the paragraph. Together with their partner they should decide where their sentence should go in the chronological order of the paragraph. One of the pair should bring their sentence to the front of the room and with tape post it in the correct position. When they are finished and feel that the paragraph is well constructed, have them read the sentences together as a class.  As the students present their sentences, the teacher will be evaluating their understanding of sentence construction and future tense as well as their grasp of chronological positioning. Any clarifications which are needed should be given.

Presentation: (10 min)

Explain to the students that one important aspect of our paragraph is missing. We have no introducing sentence to tell the reader what they will read about in the paragraph. This is called the TOPIC SENTENCE. Explain to them that the topic sentence presents the main topic of the paragraph. It tells us what is being talked about. Explain that it will be easy to construct our paragraph because we have already identified the main topic at the top of the board. Allow them to help construct a sentence which conveys the idea that the paragraph is talking about "Miss Jacob's birthday." This is the most important part of our whole paragraph and cannot be left out.

Write the sentence above the other sentences. Explain that in English we most often begin our PARAGRAPHS with an INDENTATION. We must bring in the first sentence five spaces from the left margin. This helps the reader know that a new paragraph has been started that will express a  main and separate idea. In between each paragraph there must be two blank spaces. Rewrite the first sentence with an indentation at the top of the board.

Practice/Evaluation: (13 min)

Tell the students that they will now have the opportunity to go through the same process individually as we did as a class. Allow the students to draw from a hat a typical listing of daily activities. Some may even have times written in, but have a blank line for the activity allowing the student to fill in the activity of their choice. They are now responsible to write a sentence about each of the activities then combine them in chronological order into a paragraph, just like was done earlier. Hold up one of the cards and read off the activity, then come up with a sentence. Ask the students where they think that particular sentence should go in the paragraph (at the beginning or the end, middle, etc.) The placement should correspond to the time of day. Show them the two blank spaces next to topic sentence and indentation. Remind them to check off these boxes when they have successfully done those two things to their individual paragraphs. Tell them to GO! and then walk around the room assisting them with any clarifications they may need. Assess their understanding of the topic as you go.


Allow them to take their paragraphs home and finish them if they are not able to complete them in class. If possible, give instructions to have the students write a paragraph about events they have scheduled tomorrow. They should bring the paragraph to class. The events should be described in the order they will take place. Tell them to check two things on their paragraph before they turn it in. These two things should be the presence of a topic sentence and indentation at the top of the paragraph.  This application assignment provides the opportunity for a more thorough evaluation of their understanding of the topic. This way, you will be able to assess their understanding or misunderstanding about chronological order, sentence structure and paragraph organization.

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1997 © Dr. Lynn E. Henrichsen
Department of Linguistics
Brigham Young University
Last Updated: Friday, December 5, 1997