Composition used to be a subject taught in school. It was a big deal back in the 50s and 60s but I can remember even in the 70s and 80s, my own teachers wanted us to be comfortable presenting our ideas in written form. And we got lots of experience writing for those teachers! Maybe you have a memory like mine, of that red duo-tang that was reserved for the weekly creative writing assignment, or the teacher who assigned you a weekly essay to write. Sadly, as the curriculum gets stuffed with more and more requirements, many teachers can’t devote time to writing anymore.
Did you just kind of learn to write sentences, paragraphs, and even whole essays by practising the skill over and over? If so, you may feel that you just “know” how to write your thought down. But maybe you couldn’t teach someone else how to do it, because it just came naturally.
But if you were trying to teach paragraph writing to your kids, or perhaps to someone whose mother tongue tends to flow very differently from English, what would you say? How would you discuss what you just do without thinking about it? Well, one way of representing a well-written paragraph is to use the image of a hamburger. This image is actually a common one among English teachers today, and you can even download graphic organizers for the “Hamburger Paragraph” that you can use to construct a strong paragraph of your own.
Why not give this fun, visual writing method a try? You may find that even if your writing was already quite good, using the “Hamburger” method for writing a paragraph can make you an even better writer!
How to Write a ‘Hamburger Paragraph’
The concept of the “Hamburger Paragraph” is pretty simple. Using the image of a burger on a bun, the top and bottom parts of the bun are the beginning and end of the paragraph. Additional sentences fit in the middle, like the burger patty and the toppings that go with it. The whole thing works together, just like the different ingredients come together to make a tasty hamburger.
When you write, the “layers” of your paragraph should be:
- The Topic Sentence: This is the sentence that tells your reader what your paragraph is about. It should contain the main thought you want to communicate.
- Supporting Sentences: This is where you add the details that are the “meat” of your paragraph. Many worksheets and graphic organizers will show three supporting sentences, but you can make a paragraph work with just one or with several. Just try to remember that when you write for the internet, you want to keep paragraphs moderately short. Big blocks of text are hard to read online!
- The Concluding Sentence: When you’re writing just a single paragraph, you want this last sentence to wrap things up, so to speak. If you’re tying two or more paragraphs together, the last sentence of each paragraph acts more as a transition to the idea that will be presented in the next paragraph.
Strong supporting sentences make your paragraph strong too. So try to keep that “meaty” imagery in mind when you write the middle of your paragraph. Your supporting sentences should not just repeat what you said in your topic sentence, but in different words. A supporting sentence should support, or hold up, the statement you make in your topic sentence. A good supporting sentence can:
- Provide a fact or a descriptive detail that adds to what you said in your opening sentence;
- Give an example that illustrates what you said in the first sentence;
- Provide statistics or an expert opinion to prove what you said in the topic sentence;
- Define an important term that readers may not be familiar with;
- Explain the “how” or “why” of the statement you made at the beginning of your paragraph;
- Contrast two different concepts or things, or draw a comparison between two like things. This type of supporting sentence can be useful if you are writing a product review or discussing a number of options from which the reader may want to choose.
The job of your supporting sentences is to give more meat to your initial claim or statement, to back up whatever your topic sentence said. Be sure when you write your paragraph, that each and every supporting sentence does a job. If you can’t identify what a sentence does, take a good, hard look at it. Does it go off topic or maybe just restate what you’ve already said? If so, you need to rewrite that sentence or replace it with a completely different one. You want each sentence to make its own contribution and not just to lie there, adding to the word count!
A concluding sentence is to your paragraph what the conclusion is to an essay. It helps to bring all the ideas together and to remind the reader why all the details from those supporting sentences matter. Just like the bottom bun on as hamburger, it also mirrors or completes the topic sentence and gives the reader a sense that everything is now complete.
Now that you have learned how to build a “Hamburger Paragraph,” why not try it out for yourself! If you are looking for writing practice, write just one paragraph this way and share it in our BlogBourne forum. If you are already a strong writer, why not teach someone else how to write a paragraph using the hamburger imagery. Later on, we’ll look at a similar method that helps you string paragraphs together in order to create a larger composition: an essay, article, or blog post.
Are you ready to write more than just a paragraph? Come join BlogBourne and see what sets it apart from other writing sites!
Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne
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