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Writing Descriptive Paragraphs

Combining Ideas

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Descriptive paragraphs are used when writing essays, providing reports, working on prose and so on. Intermediate level English students can generally construct well-written sentences. The challenge lies in combining those sentences into well-formed paragraphs.

Writing well constructed paragraphs is the corner-stone of good English written style. Paragraphs should contain sentences that convey ideas concisely and directly. This lesson focuses on helping students develop a strategy for combining various ideas into well formed sentences which then combine to produce effective descriptive paragraphs.

Aim: Developing descriptive paragraph writing skills

Activity: Idea grouping and consolidation at the sentence level leading to descriptive paragraphs

Level: Intermediate to upper-intermediate

Outline:

  • Introduce the topic of writing paragraphs by asking students what they consider a well formed paragraph. Introduce the idea of concise sentences as being integral to good English written style.
  • Have students take a look at the example sentences and paragraph.
  • Ask students to group the sentences in the example based on the ideas that go together as shown in the following paragraph (i.e., person and describing adjectives, etc.)
  • Individually or in pairs, ask students to group sentences in the first exercise.
  • Based on this grouping, ask students to write descriptive paragraph.
  • Ask students to complete creative writing exercise by following similar steps. (i.e., choose subject, create idea sentences, group sentences, write paragraph)
  • Choose some of the compositions to be read aloud in class. Ask students to comment on the examples.

Descriptive Paragraphs

Example: New York City

New York City is in the United States.
New York City is located in New York State.
It borders on the Atlantic Ocean.
It was founded in 1625 as "New Amsterdam".
It was first settled by the Dutch.
It is important for commerce.
Wall Street is located in New York City.
It has many national and international banks.
It has many important skyscrapers.
The World Trade Center is located in New York City.
The Empire State Building is in New York City.
New York City is an important city for immigration.
Ellis Island used to be the entry point for many immigrants at the turn of the century.
There is an interesting immigration museum on Ellis Island.

New York, New York is located on the Atlantic Coast of the United States of America. It was first settled as "New Amsterdam" in 1625 by the Dutch. Today, New York City is an important commercial and banking center which includes Wall Street. Among its many important skyscrapers are the World Trade Center and The Empire State Building. One of the most interesting museums is on Ellis Island which served as the entry point for many immigrants who passed through New York City at the turn of the century.

Exercise 1: Elvis Presley

  • Arrange the sentences about Elvis Presley into idea groups.
  • Write a paragraph about Elvis Presley using the idea groups to create concise sentences.

Elvis Presley was an American.
He was a singer and actor
He was famous for rock-and-roll.
He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
He was born on January 8, 1935
He started singing in church.
He taught himself to play the guitar.
He first became popular on the local touring circuit for country-and-western music.
He sang romantic songs.
He danced erotically.
Teens loved him for his new style.
He had many hits.
He sang "Love Me Tender", "All Shook Up", and "Don't Be Cruel".
He died on August 16, 1977.
He died in Memphis, Tennessee.
He might have died of drug and alcohol abuse.

Exercise 2: Creative Writing

  • Choose a famous place or person.
  • Write down a number of important facts about that place or person.
  • Arrange the sentences into idea groups.
  • Write a paragraph using the idea groups to create concise sentences.

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