Part IV: Developing Paragraphs Using Transitional
Organizing Ideas: The Organic Outline
1) SW construct a topic sentence that encompasses a variable from the enthymeme
2) SW support the enthymeme and the topic sentence with relevant details
3) SW assess and recommend transitions that establish clear relationships within and
between paragraphs using transitional words or phrases to ensure the unity of the
MATERIALS: 1) WS: organic outline, 2) WS: Developing Topic Sentences, 3) visual:
6 Ways to Develop Paragraphs 4) WS: Using Transitions to Compare/Contrast
INTRODUCTION: [This lesson assumes that students already understand how a
paragraph is structured. If this background is lacking, use Developing Topic Sentences
worksheet (click here) to help students develop topic sentences that encompass a variable
from the enthymeme. Nevertheless, before launching into explanations about transitional
words and phrases, it is helpful to remind students of the following about paragraphs:]
Have students examine the information they listed in their organic outlines during
the brainstorming in the previous lesson. They should have grouped items in each
column that were similar. If they have not done that, have them do so before
Explain that since a paragraph is limited to one aspect of a topic, each grouping
should address only one aspect of the topic. Have students verify that the items
they grouped are related and deal with only one aspect of the topic.
Based on this examination, have students count the number of paragraphs their
paper will most likely contain. Since, in a comparison/contrast paper, each
WHAT variable includes two issues (the topic and a specific aspect of the topic),
the information listed in each column will develop a minimum of two paragraphs.
Students should realize that this paper will total a minimum of six paragraphs:
(1) enthymeme, (2) WHAT #1 topic, (3) WHAT #1 specific aspect, (4) WHAT #2
topic, (5) WHAT #2 specific aspect, (6) WHY.
Remind students to think of a paragraph like a sandwich: the topic sentence and
the clincher sentence of a paragraph form a framework between which the content
of the paragraph is sandwiched. [Sometimes I ask students to consider how much
“stuff” they like on their sub sandwiches. Most students will admit they don’t
build skimpy sandwiches!] A paragraph should: “Tell me what you’re going to
tell me (topic sentence), then tell me (body), then tell me what you just told me
(clincher sentence).”
Display the poster of the 6 Ways to Develop Paragraphs (click here) to assist
students who struggle in understanding how to develop paragraph content. Say:
Although it is common to use more than one method when developing paragraphs
within the same column of the organic outline, this lesson will focus on how to
use transitional words/phrases to pivot between ideas when comparing and/or
1. Explain that in this lesson, as the class works to develop their ideas, they will also
be considering what transitional words/phrases will be needed to join ideas and
make thoughts flow smoothly. Help students understand that transitional
words/phrases are necessary “pivots” in comparison/contrast writing using this
illustration: Ask a basketball player to demonstrate how a pivot maneuver is used
during play. If demonstrated correctly, the player’s foot will not leave the surface
of the floor but will, instead, “pivot” on the floor, providing the player’s stance
vital flexibility as the next move is strategically analyzed. Explain that in a
comparison/contrast paper, the idea expressed in the enthymeme is clarified
through the use of specific transitional words/phrases that enable the reader to
“pivot” back-and-forth, from one idea to another without totally losing “sight” or
disconnecting from the first idea. These “pivots” allow the reader to “see” the
differences/similarities between the two subjects being compared.
Explain that two organizational strategies are used in comparison/contrast writing:
(click here for visual used to illustrate these methods)
a. Point-by-point method (A + B + A + B + A + B + A + B + A + B)
b. Block method (AAAAA + BBBBB)
[The plus (+) represents a transition.]
Hand out worksheet Using Transitions to Compare/Contrast (click here). Have
students circle or underline each transitional word/phrase as you read the
paragraphs aloud. Make a list of the words/phrases that the students found and
add to it if additional ones are suggested. Permanently post the list somewhere in
the classroom so that students can refer to it as they write their
comparison/contrast pieces.
Complete the activities listed at the bottom of the handout.
As students begin writing, encourage them to focus on one column at a time.
They should develop their writing using either method by incorporating
transitions appropriately.
When doing peer editing, encourage PQP groups to listen specifically for and
provide feedback to the writer on transitional words/phrases that clarify the
ASSESSMENT: Have students use highlighters to mark transitional words/phrases
before turning in assignment.