Initial Planning Reflection for Facilitating Learning - How to Write a Paragraph


Writing a paragraph is a process where main idea

Possible Related Concepts

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What instructional theory and learning theory should be used to begin to facilitate student learning for these ideas?

I would want to begin with exploration so the students will learn through their own actions and reactions in a new situation.  If they explore new materials and new ideas with minimal guidance or expectation of specific accomplishments, the new experience should raise questions they cannot answer with their present ideas and patterns of reasoning.  Having made an effort that most likely will not be completely successful, they should be motivated to ask questions and begin to look for ideas that will lead them to self-regulation. Meanwhile, I will have collected enough assessment data to begin to know what they understand and where I might begin to facilitate their learning in the second phase: invention.

What activities could be used for the first activity with students for writing a paragraph?

Activities Review a resource file or a list of possible activities that would fit the concepts and generalization.

List of possible activities

1.  List the qualities of good paragraphs.  The qualities would include logical development of a complete idea, appropriate diction, integrity (both of speaker and of matter), coherence, and the like.

2.  Have groups of students jointly compose 2 paragraphs on a different assigned subject for each group, and discuss the paragraphs composed by each group.

3.  Remind your students of their everyday experiences with concrete objects that are constructed with order and coherence (example, a car.)  Invite them to suggest other such objects form their experience, and ask them to write a paragraph describing such an object and discuss with them the order they used in their paragraphs.

4.  Describe various modes of paragraph structuring:  compare and contrast; chronological order; spatially descriptive; inductive presentation; deductive presentation; enthememic; etc.

5.  Divide the class into groups as in 2, but have them compose sentences as models, in miniature, of a “complete thought: such as the paragraph represents.  Topic sentences might receive special attention, as might introductory, transitional or concluding sentences.

6.  Provide a class in which each student is assigned to examine paragraphs for topic sentences, transitions, structural cues, and other such items.

Making a decision

Review what resources are needed for each activity and the preparation of students needed for each activity. Eliminate activities that wouldn't fit the availability of resources and the readiness of students (mixtures). Then think about how each would or would not be good to use as the first activity.choice.  When you have done that, compare the ideas below with yours, and if possible, with those of others.

1.  This procedure is in some textbooks; and their suggested grading procedures encourage teachers to adopt it.  It is likely to be difficult for your students, especially the concrete thinkers, to respond to because they cannot conceive such formal concepts other than by giving specific examples.  Considering the variation in length, complexity, subordination, coordination, etc., which in different contexts make a “complete thought” (whether of sentence or of paragraph duration).  Notice how formal that concept is.  Concrete thinkers cannot readily keep in mind a concept with so many variables.                Besides, one leads more to thinking about compositions than to composing and it leads to correctional feedback, which is not the response writers expect to evoke in ordinary writing situations.

2.  Is probably the best.  Students are given considerable freedom of judgment and at the same time must consider the judgments of their peers.  In most of the situations for which we are preparing students, writing is a social activity, so it is good for a student to have access to the thought processes of others.  Approach 2 has the further advantage of providing a social context that is vital to all learning.  Learners are much more likely to experience disequilibrium when they face the ideas of their peers rather than ideas presented by authority.  Finally this approach promotes the free and spontaneous generation of materials—which is a fundamental component of composition.

3.  This approach has the advantage of relating paragraphing to the student’s previous experience.  But it should be noted that it loses the spontaneity of 2 and is more directive.

4.  This approach would be less appropriate at the beginning of paragraph teaching because it is rather theoretical and because it highlights segments of paragraphing theory (i.e., how to construct one or another kind of paragraph) before the students consider actual paragraphs.

5.  Since sentences in one sense compose paragraphs, we would consider a task such as this useful, at least potentially.  It has many of the social qualities of 2 but it also has some drawbacks.  It is too theoretical; and it is too prescriptive to be useful as a beginning activity.

6.  This exercise prevents students from asking their own questions and satisfying their own curiosity.  It is, like 5, too restrictive and is more analytical than generative.  All the concepts of paragraphing must be properly assimilated before students can use them. 

Reflect on the positives and negatives for each and make a decision as to what you believe might be the best before continuing.

  The preferred approach in 2 or 3 is an example of the “exploration” phase in the learning cycle.  The entire learning cycle consists of three phases that we call exploration, invention, and expansion.  During exploration the students learn through their own more or less spontaneous reactions to a new situation.  In this phase, they explore new materials or ideas with minimal guidance or expectation of specific achievements.  Their patterns of reasoning may be inadequate to cope with the new data, and they may begin self-regulation while the teacher assesses their understanding.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©