3 Steps for Teaching Topic Sentence

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2 Steps for Teaching Topic Sentence

3 Steps for Teaching Topic Sentence

It’s that time of year, teaching your students about topic sentences.

Sometimes we throw our students into writing topic sentences before we teach them how to identify them. 

This is the first and most important step! WE CAN’T SKIP IT!

So, let’s hop right in.

What is a topic sentence?

  • A sentence found at the beginning of a paragraph
  • It lets the reader know what the paragraph will be about

We all know the basic definition of a topic sentence, but how do we get our students to really understand how to find and write them? Here’s some steps that’ll help!

Step #1:

  • First, students need to identify the TOPIC
  • A topic is the ONE thing that the paragraph is mostly about. In other words, the topic is the subject
  • Question prompts to ask your students about the TOPIC: 

                    📣   “What is this paragraph mostly about?”

                    📣   “What is the big idea of the paragraph?”

                    📣   “What single word can you use to describe the paragraph”

                    📣   “Who or what is the paragraph about?”

                    📣   “What phrase or word do you see repeated?”                        


Now you may be asking, what’s next? 

Step #2:

  • Next, teach your students about using the TOPIC to find the MAIN IDEA
  • The main idea is the specific message that the author is saying about the topic (AKA the subject)
  • We can teach students to think about what the author is specifically teaching them about the subject (topic) of the paragraph
  • Questions you can ask your students to help them find the MAIN IDEA:

                   📣   “What is the author saying about the topic?”

                   📣   “What is the paragraph mostly about?” 

                   📣   “What do the details explain about the topic?”               

                   📣   “What are the major points about the topic?”

Main idea

Now it’s time to put it all together! But how???

Step # 3:

  • Last, we teach our students to find a sentence that combines the TOPIC and MAIN IDEA
  • Usually this sentence comes at the beginning of the paragraph 
  • Students can use our formula to help them remember how to find the topic sentence: 
  • T + MI = TS 
  • Probing Questions: 

                   📣   “Does this sentence include the topic and main idea?”

                   📣   “Does it explain what the paragraph is teaching about?” 

That’s it! Teaching these 3 simple steps now, will give your students a strong foundation on how to identify topic sentences.

Students will benefit from lots of practice!

Want to make is even easier? Use our Foundations of Topic Sentences resource. Activities are differentiated and broken down into finding the topic, main idea and finally the topic sentence! 

Topic Sentence Activities

Ready to give it a try? Here’s an example paragraph:

       You have to wear certain clothing to play soccer. One thing you wear to  play soccer is cleats so you can run easily on the grass. Another thing you wear during a soccer match is shin guards. You will also wear a jersey when you play soccer to show which team you are on. These are some things you wear to play soccer.

  • Step #1: Find the topic
    • Using our question prompts ask: “Who or what is the paragraph about?” 
    • Our topic of this paragraph is soccer.
  • Step #2: Find the main idea
    • Ask “What is this paragraph MOSTLY saying about the topic?”
    • Our main idea is soccer clothing.
  • Step #3: Find the topic sentence
    • Ask “Which sentence combines the topic and main idea?
    • Our topic sentence combines our topic: soccer + main idea: soccer clothing =  topic sentence: You have to wear certain clothing to play soccer.

We don’t want to forget to teach our students these foundational skills. Each of these parts build on one another in order to help them learn the complete skill! 

The best part?

Students who have a solid understanding of topic sentences will be better equipped to write topic sentences AND strong paragraphs! 

As a teacher, educator, speech therapist or parent, teaching concepts using multi-modalities helps students access the information in different ways! 

GRASPhopper wants to make sure everyone understands the steps to finding a topic sentences, so we’ve created a video lesson!

  • Watch GRASPhopper’s step by step teaching video as a guide. 
    • The video will not only increase your knowledge of topic sentences, but can be used directly with your students too!
    • This video is filled with opportunities for students to LEARN, with MODELS & EXAMPLES, and tons of opportunities to PRACTICE

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