During the past few weeks, we have been studying different forms of government. Our novel studies included the books Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin and The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. Both books are focused on a child’s experience living under specific forms of government. In addition, we researched and studied the United States government, both on the national and state level.
As a writing engagement, we read Judith Viorst’s classic poem, If I Were in Charge of the World. After reading the poem, students were given the prompt“Your task is to write an informative, multi-paragraph essay about three changes you would make if you were suddenly in charge of the world. Include reasons why this change would be positive and impactful to others.
The students were off! The room became a buzz of conversation as students bounced their ideas off one another. Their responses ranged from global and serious to fanciful. To help focus the students’ thinking, we posted the following questions to consider.
How would the change benefit others?
Who might care about this change?
How would this change impact others?
With these questions in mind, students were able to better sort their ideas and decide on three changes they would make. Their best thinking was then put in an informative writing plan.
It was time to review the prompt. Students quickly identified the format required – a multi-paragraph essay. The students realized that their big ideas could each be stretched into individual paragraphs, but we would still need both an introduction and a conclusion.
Students now had a real reason to learn how to write introductory paragraphs. As this was our first experience writing introductory paragraphs, we were going to write two sentences. We began with writing an “Although” topic sentence we would use for any informative paragraph – Although there are many changes the world needs, I would make these three if I were in charge of the world. In our second sentence, we were going to inform our readers what we would be writing in our paragraphs. Looking at our plan, we merely needed to list the three big ideas we would be addressing – I would allow children to vote, place pets in elementary schools and discover an inexpensive way to desalinate water. Putting the two sentences together, we had an introductory paragraph. In order to practice the skill and have a second paragraph from which to choose, we wrote a second introductory paragraph, this time starting with an If, Then topic sentence. If I were given the opportunity to be in charge of the world, then I would make a few very important changes to better the lives of others. Then we can add our second sentence with the big ideas listed in a sentence.
Writing the big idea paragraphs was a simple task for our fourth grade writers. It was easy for them to understand that each paragraph needed to start with a transition word and did not require a separate topic sentence. Students added the necessary details, referring back to the questions posed earlier.
Only one thing was left to do. Our essays needed a conclusion. Luckily, we had written two introductory paragraphs. Often, if we write two introductory paragraphs we can use one as our concluding paragraph! Students were able to complete their essays using the second topic sentence they had written! Our first experience writing a multi-paragraph essay had been a success!