Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Every paper needs a topic. Every paragraph needs a topic sentence. But, what is a topic? Often, it is a name or two, or ideas placed together: middle school education, racism, sports and high schools, health care, swine flu prevention, women's rights in Moslem societies, in America, and so on.

A topic is a place to start. If it is too broad, you are off and on your way to writing a book. If it is too narrow, you have painted yourself into a corner. Somewhere in the middle is a good place to start. A place where you as a writer can develop a discussion of the ideas that you want to convey.

If you are passionate about a subject, often a topic will come to you in a flash. But, more often than not, a little reflection helps to create an interesting topic sentence. Ask yourself and others some questions: what current issues matter to you, what affects you the most, what do you not understand, how does this subject impact others?

Teachers often frown on the use of google, but it is a great way of looking at a subject through the someone else's eyes. Google the words that frame your topic. See what others are saying about the subject. You'll be suprised at the diversity of facts and opinions on the topic that you have selected.

Since topics can be broad, you will need to organize your thoughts into paragraphs that discuss central ideas on the topic subject you have chosen. Each paragraph will need a topic sentence that narrow the subject matter and starts the development of your ideas and thoughts. Paragraphs often begin with a topic sentence, but rules are made to be broken.

The best paragraph and sentence ever written is said to be Charles Dickens opening paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)

Read the book online.

What makes this an effective sentence and paragraph? What is the broad subject that Dickens is talking about? How does he narrow the subject? What central ideas does he discuss that further the discussion?

Select your own examples of topics and the paragraphs that shape those topics. Discuss what makes for an effective topic and how sentences and paragraphs develop the topic and the writer's ideas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A major problem in writing is the organization of ideas. Ideas should progress logically through the writing. Typically, the progression is chronological, that is, from first to last, but this is not a hard and fast rule. In writing, one can reverse time or create flashbacks. Moreover, the organization of ideas can be tackled by way of importance, from least to most important. The important point is that the ideas which form your sentences should have a logical sequence. Students are probably familiar with this technique in television and movies. Ask them for their own examples of organization and examples of where this organization has been used or where it would be useful.

Here is a great way to teach organization - write a series of related sentences and then cut the sentences into individual strips. Use multiple copies of the sentences and form groups of students. Groups help facilitate discussion and fun. Then, have each group organize the sentences into a composition and compare.

See where this has been done. See the examples on hands on and modeling.

A second method is to brainstorm. Start with a topic sentence, not too broad and not too narrow. The idea is to allow students to create sentences which support the topic. Students should be permitted to range far and wide so as to stimulate creativity. It is best to use a blackboard for this activity. Once the ideas supporting the topic have been written down have the students organize them into a composition.

If you can remember taking the SAT's or if you have studied a foreign language, you may remember coming across examples where you are asked to organize ideas chronologically or by relevance. The learning tool is the same as the above examples. These activities allow students to work together in a competitive environment. It is stress free and fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The first question always asked is: "What homework will my child have?"

All students are expected to read at least 30 minutes each night. They may read a book, magazine, newspaper or even a comic book, ... just read. The benefits to your child from reading each and every night will pay off in the future with big dividends. Better readers make better writers. And better readers and writers have better opportunities in life!

Vocabulary and grammar exercises will also be assigned to reinforce lesson concepts.

Welcome to Roberson

Welcome to 6th Grade Language Arts

Welcome to Roberson Middle School and Sixth Grade Language Arts.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Debbie Suttles and I have taught school for 28 years. I am excited to be your child's teacher this year. Together, the students and I will take an adventure in reading and writing to learn about the many different people and places in the world.

There is no greater joy than to take a friend along ... so, Welcome Aboard!