Approximate time to complete: 45 minutes 

Download the Course Companion document before starting this course. You can use the Companion Document to take notes on your learning, address reflection prompts, and as an easy way to retrieve course resources.  

Learning Objectives: 

Participants will be able to: 
  • Explain the key processes and strategies for supporting students' paragraph writing
  • Incorporate strategies to promote paragraph writing into their instruction

Consider This Scenario

Connection Point

In your Course Companion Document, consider these questions:  

  • Can you relate to this scenario? In what ways are your challenges in literacy instruction similar or different? 

Ms. Day has been working with her 5th grade science students on basic experiments. At the conclusion of each experiment, she wants her students to create a one paragraph “lab report” that describes their hypothesis, experiment and findings. She explained the purpose of the reports and provided an example of a quality lab report. However, she notices that many of her students get stuck on the first sentence of their paragraphs and cannot seem to move on. Furthermore, when they do complete an entire paragraph, the sentences are often unrelated or seemingly out of order.

What are the key skills associated with paragraph writing? 

It is easy to overlook the importance of executive functioning in developing students’ foundational paragraph writing skills. One reason that this happens is because educators can easily underestimate the complexity of writing. While many people might consider writing to be a skill in itself, it is actually a construct of many different skills. These can include: memory, planning, transcription, background knowledge, organization, spelling, handwriting as well as skills associated with proficient reading.

Therefore, it is important for educators working with students to increase their writing skills to release responsibility gradually, model good writing process for students, and identify and develop the key skills that make good writing in isolation, using explicit instruction.

Answer the following questions in your Course Companion: 
Consider the list of component activities associated with writing listed above. 

  • Can you think of any other activities involved in writing?
  • What items on this list do you feel comfortable addressing? What do you need to work on to improve your ability to support students’ writing

Building Foundational Paragraph Skills with William Van Cleave

The following video covers some foundational approaches to building paragraph skills for students. It also covers the importance of executive functioning for writing clear, meaningful paragraphs. 

After watching the video, answer the following question in your Course Companion: 

Q: Consider Mr. Van Cleave's five steps for writing a topic sentence. Which of these steps are used in your classroom and/or building? What are some steps you can take to incorporate any steps that are not currently used or to integrate this five-step process into your instruction?

Knowledge Check



The Writing Revolution provides a single paragraph outline that can be helpful in guiding students through the paragraph writing process.

Writing Revolution: Single Paragraph Outline :

Consider how you might incorporate this tool or another like it into your practice. 

Course Reflection

Identify one or two key takeaways from what you learned in this course.

  • How can you begin to implement your learning in your work in your classroom, building or district?
  • What barriers do you anticipate to incorporating this learning into your practice? How might you and your colleagues overcome those barriers? 

To Learn More

The following resource can help you learn more about paragraph writing skills: 

  • From the Ground Up! by William Van Cleave, provides in depth guidance on foundational paragraph skills.


Please take a moment to fill out this feedback form. We will use your feedback to improve this and other courses.

Last Modified: 7/5/2023 11:27:56 AM