Writing is arguably one of the most beneficial skills taught in the academic realm. Since strong writing abilities are valuable in every content area and career down the road, mastery of this skill is essential. As with most undertakings, practice is key to developing a student’s writing—the more a child writes, the better that child will progress as he advances through his education.
For elementary-aged students, writing a cohesive, organized paragraph is a relatively new concept, one that can be taxing and frustrating in the beginning. Style, conventions, and technique will evolve with time, but structure and organization should be a writing objective from the start. When it comes to helping young writers compose a paragraph, structuring an organized paragraph is best explained simply—complex writing will come later.
A helpful strategy to prompt organization is to use a visual tool or graphic representation of how a well-organized paragraph should look. Some educators use the cheeseburger method, in which writers structure their paragraphs like a cheeseburger: the top bun is the introduction, the burger patty is the main idea, the toppings provide added detail to the “meat” of the paragraph, and the bottom bun concludes the paragraph. The cheeseburger method allows young writers to see that every part of the cheeseburger or paragraph is essential. It is also a good way to practice peer editing, as students can examine other paragraphs to ensure that their classmates have included enough toppings (detail), a solid patty (main idea), and an obvious top and bottom bun (introduction and conclusion).
Once writers have mastered the concept of the cheeseburger structure, it is time to instruct them on each individual layer. For example, the top bun, or introduction, needs to be enticing enough to get the reader interested—this is called a “hook” or “attention-grabber.” The meat or main idea of the paragraph needs to stand out. Explain to your writer that you would not want to eat a burger that has a flavorless patty; the burger, or main idea, is the star of the sandwich. Therefore, it often requires the most attention. The purpose of toppings is that they add to the deliciousness of the sandwich—toppings, or details, accompany the flavor of the burger and add crunch, sweetness, tang, or texture to the patty. Finally, students must include a conclusion, which draws the paragraph to an end—this is their bottom bun. Without the bottom bun, the burger seems incomplete or unfinished; the reader is left unsatisfied by the abrupt end to the sandwich and the missing concluding component.
Again, the cheeseburger method is aimed at young writers to help with practicing structure and organization. More developed writing techniques will expand over time with practice and further instruction. For now, parents can help elementary-age children by focusing on the basics when it comes to writing a paragraph. For even more of a visual, parents can search cheeseburger paragraph graphic organizers to print from the computer. These organizers help children visually plan and construct a paragraph, ensuring that each section is represented.