I spent four years during my Doctor of Creative Arts degree learning how to write well. The result was my book Saving Sun Bears which was published in 2020.
It tells the amazing story of a Malaysian ecologist as he struggles to save a species. I am really proud of this book.
Not only because of the subject matter, but also because I learnt many different writing techniques along the way, which I incorporated.... Like how to write great paragraphs!
How To Write Great Paragraphs: Sarah's Top Tips
Paragraphs are the building blocks of good writing and today, I want to help you teach kids how to write killer paragraphs. Feel free to use these examples in the classroom or with your children and let me know how you go!
It doesn’t matter if kids are writing an assignment or an exam essay, if they use the TEEL paragraph structure, it keeps their writing on track and stops them heading off on tangents.
TEEL is an acronym which stands for:
T is for TOPIC
The topic sentence is the main idea of the paragraph. Here’s an example:
Sun bears are the least known bear in the world.This sentence acts like a flag to the reader by telling them what is coming up. Having this detail upfront makes reading less confusing.
It also allows a reader to speed read by simply reading the first sentence of each paragraph. Perhaps give your students a book and ask them to give it a go.
Can they get the gist of the story if they read just the first line of each paragraph for a couple of pages? If they can, the writer has used the TEEL method.
E is for EXPLANATION or ELABORATION
The next section is a sentence (or a couple of sentences) which gives more information about the topic.
They should think of this section as answering questions like Where, What, Why, How or When. For example:
Although there are eight bear species, very few people have heard about the Malayan sun bear. This bear has black fur with a gold chest-patch. It lives in the Bornean rainforest and spends most of the day high in the trees.
E is for EVIDENCE
Kids are NOT experts… even teens who think they are!
Therefore, it is important to back up the topic with evidence. This section could include researched facts or quotes. In some of my school workshops, I ask children help me research my next book by finding facts online about Sumatran Rhinos.
I also ask them to see if they can find a credible expert I could interview. This leads to a discussion about what is credible evidence!
Here’s an ‘evidence section’:
Dr Wong Siew Te has studied sun bears for over 30 years. He now runs the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre and he is a leading expert in sun bear conservation. “I spend a great deal of time educating people about this species,” he said. “I need people to understand their importance, so they want to help save them from extinction.”
L Stands for LINK
The last part of the TEEL paragraph is really important. It acts as the conclusion of the paragraph.
This is a sentence that either links back to the topic of the paragraph, OR links to the next paragraph. Sometimes it can do both like this one:
Although Dr Wong’s awareness-building activities are making a difference, there is a long way to go: the orangutan is still the recognisable image of Borneo.
Can you see how this section talks about how Dr Wong is making a difference (linking back to the topic sentence) AND it introduces a NEW idea which can start the next paragraph by focusing on orangutans?
Writing Great Paragraphs Conclusion
Teaching kids how to write great paragraphs using the TEEL method not only makes life easier for the teacher, but it helps the kids to:
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this method.
Let me know in the comments below and also, search my website to find more free classroom resources and check out the Wildlife Wong series while you're there!
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