Essay First Body Paragraph Transitions Lesson

Now that you’re a bit more comfortable with the Introduction, let’s move on to the Body paragraphs.

Body Paragraphs Walk Through Lesson Part 1:

Make sure you have your copy of the Five Paragraph Essay Structure either open on your screen or printed out so we can follow along here.

I also want you to go to the downloads page on http://www.HowToPassAnEssay.com/downloads/ and scroll down a little bit to click on the Body pdf.

Now, you either need to print this three times or make sure you keep it open on your screen because we are going to walk through this process for the body paragraphs three times…one for each paragraph.

First Body Paragraph (1 of 3)

Ok.  Let’s get started with this first body paragraph.  You’ve already got your introduction written.  You’ve got your three points for your thesis.  Now we need to begin the body.

So, I’m going to open Notepad.  Again, remember you have lines printed here on the Body Paragraphs pdf handout so you can follow along and handwrite this, or you can open your word processor and follow along with the handout.

Notice that I do NOT have the introduction here because I don’t want you to think about the introduction.  I want you to focus on this first body paragraph.  The only things I want you to remember from the introduction are your actual thesis and your three points.

The FIRST of those three points is the one we need to focus on in this first paragraph.

Topic Sentence

The topic sentence, in a body paragraph, IS the FIRST sentence that you want in the paragraph.  It’s also the easiest one to write because you’ve already written your three points for your thesis.

Remember, in the thesis, you had the topic for your entire essay and you pointed out the three points that you wanted to cover in each of the body paragraphs.

Now, just like you used the thesis statement to preview each of the points in your essay, you’re going to use the topic sentence to preview what you’re going to talk about in this first body paragraph.

In this specific example, we’re writing an essay on Healthy Snacks and Sides for School Lunches and we chose to go with apples, oranges, and bananas as our three points.  So, for this first body paragraph, we need to pick our first of three points, apples.

The topic sentence is very simple.  It’s ONE of those three points plus your overall topic of the essay.  In that first, topic sentence, you are introducing what you’re going to be talking about through the rest of that body paragraph.

For this specific example, we’ve written:

One of the easiest snacks to pack for school is the basic apple.

That gives us our overall thesis, our overall topic for the paper, plus it talks about the basic apple, our first of three points.

Indent

Make sure to remember that this is an academic essay.  You’re not going to be using block paragraphs.  You going to be using the traditional paragraphs we’ve always been taught in English class.  You need to make sure that this topic sentence, the beginning of that paragraph is indented.

You can tab, or you can space over 5 spaces.  Of course if you’re handwriting all of this, you just need to skip over a little bit of space, but you need to make sure that the VISUAL indention is THERE so you can show the person grading your essay that you KNOW this is supposed to be a new paragraph.

Explication

With the topic sentence written, you need to start filling in the other blanks to complete this first body paragraph.  So, we’re going to move on from topic sentence, our first task, on to explication (a little more than just explanation).  In this case, explication includes:

  • Define
  • Explain
  • Give Example(s)

…of the apple as an easy snack to pack for school.  This is exactly what we said in the topic sentence.  We’re previewing what we’re going to be explaining further.

Define

Now, for this particular situation, defining an apple is probably not such a great idea.  It would be REALLY boring.  So, skip the dictionary definition.

You don’t have to do all of these under explication – define, explain, and give examples.

Those are there to guide you.

In this case, define doesn’t really fit too well, but we do want to describe it a little bit and move into the explanation of how the basic apple is an easy snack to pack for school.

Explain

So using the define (guide) a little bit, but mostly moving on to explanation, we’re going to continue filling in the blanks with a couple of extra sentences.

This solid fruit is a particular favorite because it is easy to pack.  Just rinse it off, and it’s ready for the lunch box or bag.

Again, it’s all flowing well together.  You’ve got all these transitions, so every thought moves on to the next one.

Again, that’s not quite enough to finish our paragraph, so we need to explain that point even further.  We need to consider:

  • How is it easy to pack?
  • What is it easy to pack?
  • Why is this good for kids?
  • Why is it good for Mom and Dad packing the lunches?

So, we continue on with the next sentences.

If you get stuck in the Body, just go back and think about Define, Explain, and Give examples.

Ask yourself, How can I explain this further?

5 Ws & the H

If you’re really stuck, think through the 5 Ws & the H: who, what, when, where, why, how.

Ask yourself:

  • WHO is this relating to?
  • WHAT am I talking about?
  • WHERE does this take place?

Ask yourself about all the details and how they’re relative to the thesis/topic and point, and you’ll start filling in all the blanks for these sentences.

We’ll continue on with the explanation and start moving into an example of how this apple is an easy and healthy snack to pack for school.

There’s not a lot of prep work involved to pack an apple.  Other than taking your child’s taste into account when you choose, red, yellow, or specialty apples in the grocery store, stocking apples for lunch is simple.

Give Example(s)

You’re explaining and giving additional details.  We talked a little about getting the apples and stocking the apples – taking your child’s taste into account – things that will make them actually want to eat this stuff – and we’ll move on even more into the example phase.

If you really want to put more work into it, you could slice the apple into wedges or chunks and put them in a plastic baggie or container, but then you risk the chance of the “browning” slime.  Most parents will opt for sending a whole apple with the instructions to trash the core rather than bringing it back home.

Referencing “browning” slime is also somewhat of an attention getter.  You always want to draw the reader into the paper.  You’re almost adding a bit of humor, too with the reference to common experience of browning, slimy apple slices or cores.  You’re drawing on what the reader knows with this very visual and tactile example.

First Body Paragraph in Summary

So, by filling in the blanks, we’ve done our topic sentence.  We took that topic sentence even further with Explication…kind of defining, but mostly showing the details through explanation and examples.

Note:  Always keep the reader in mind.  Draw them in with details and things they know.

We also used transitions between all of the sentences to pull it all together, and it ended up being a fairly beefy little paragraph, around 137 words.  Given that the essay assignments are usually between 400-600 words, and this is ONE of the FIVE paragraphs, 137 words out of 400-600 is a sizable chunk.  Add the introductory paragraph you’ve already written, and you’re getting close to the minimum word count.

Is this first body paragraph example the best in the world?  Absolutely, NOT.

We’re following an outline here.  We’re not trying to write great literature.  Again, we are trying to PASS an essay.  We’re trying to fill in these blanks so we can meet the expectations of the graders.  …and that’s what we’re doing.

  • We’ve done our topic sentence.
  • We’ve indented.  We’ve shown that we need to start the new paragraph.
  • We’ve done the Explication and included much of the 5Ws & the H to fill in the details.
  • We’ve given tangible, real-world examples, and
  • We’ve tied it all together.

Transition

We also have to transition into the next body paragraph.  Even though we’ve tied it all together in our thesis by listing the three points for the overall topic, you don’t want to just do one body paragraph and then,

BOOM

…start the next one.  You need to put a little transition in there.

You can do that at the end, which we did a bit with reference to a whole apple and a messy core because that’s going to lead into our topic sentence in the second body paragraph about oranges (whole or slices) as a healthy snack.

Body Paragraphs Walk Through Lesson Part 2:

Second Body Paragraph (2 of 3)

Keeping with this idea of the whole apple verses the pieces and the yuckiness, we want to take that idea and transition into the next body paragraph.  As such, we’ll start the next body paragraph with:

On the other hand, sending whole oranges to school is just sticky.

Since we’ve talked about whole apples, now we’ve moved on to whole oranges.  We’ve still got the school in our topic sentence.  We’re still talking about the pros and the cons.  We’ve still got the same idea.

We do need to make sure to indent our topic sentence.

Now, to speed up the lesson a bit, we are doing the exact same thing in the second and third body paragraphs that we did in the first.  We did our topic sentence – the point we want to make from the thesis.  We’ve related it back to our first body paragraph for an easy transition.  Now we’re going through Explication again – Define, Explain, Give Example(s) – give details, refer back to what we’ve already been talking about, and emphasize the point.

The whole purpose of the body paragraphs is to give those details to support the points you’re trying to make. 

To quickly continue, the rest of the second body paragraph includes:

Oranges have to be peeled, so unless the school has a really large supply of wet wipes, peeling oranges can be annoying and messy.  It’s really much kinder to children, classmates, and teachers if oranges are peeled and sectioned into slices for lunch and snacks.  The “browning” isn’t really a problem with citrus fruit, and if parents prefer not to use permanent containers for the slices, disposable containers and baggies are a handy option.  Peeling, sectioning, and packing certainly can take a bit of time, so if lunch packing time is limited, the “Cuties” citrus brand capitalizes on how easy it is to peel their fruit.  If it needs to go whole, give the Cuties brand a try.

 Notice how we filled in the blanks with these sentences.  We filled in Explication with explanation and examples.  We filled in the details and made sure we tied it together with the thesis.

Third Body Paragraph (3 of 3)

Since this is the third time we’re walking through this body paragraph process, we indent and examine the entire paragraph.

     Bananas are a dream option for school lunches and snacks in terms of speed.  Pick one off the bunch and it’s ready to go.  It doesn’t even need to be rinsed off since the peel comes off easily and cleanly, leaving the clean fruit ready to eat.  Slicing and packing banana chunks can suffer from the “browning” over time with some distasteful texture, so whole bananas are usually preferable.  Even in the thick peel, though, bananas are rather sensitive to bruising.  A sturdy lunch box can help protect the banana from rough handling.

Body Paragraphs in Summary – Seeing the Pattern & Filling in the Blanks

By now, you should be seeing a pattern.  We do each paragraph piece by piece, a little bit at a time, and start filling in the blanks.

  • Start off with the thesis statement.
  • Build on that with an attention getter.
  • Tie the attention getter to the thesis statement.
  • Three points in the thesis statement preview the next three body paragraphs.
  • Write the topic sentence with your first of the three points in the thesis.
  • Define it.  Explain it.  Give examples.
  • Make sure all the sentences and details tie together.
  • Repeat the process for the second and third body paragraphs.

Practice

Just like you did after the Introductory Paragraph walk through lesson, I want you to practice writing body paragraphs.

Use the sample topic used in the walk through (or a topic you picked before with the introductory paragraph lesson).  Use your thesis statement and write the three body paragraphs to follow.  USE the Five Paragraph Essay Structure handout and the Body Paragraphs handout.  Follow the steps.  Fill in the blanks.  Think about details that will help define, explain, and provide examples to PROVE your point in relation to the essay topic.

Practice body paragraphs, and in the next lesson, we’ll move on to the conclusion.

Paragraphs & Topic Sentences

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.

TOPIC SENTENCES

A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.

Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.

PARAGRAPH STRUCTURE

Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.

Introduction: the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body: follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion: the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.

The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put, on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or, if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY.

George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”

COHERENCE

In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.

Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.

A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.

Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.

Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.

Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.

Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.

I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular.

Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”

SOME USEFUL TRANSITIONS

(modified from Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference)

To show addition:
again, and, also, besides, equally important, first (second, etc.), further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, moreover, next, too
To give examples:
for example, for instance, in fact, specifically, that is, to illustrate
To compare:
also, in the same manner, likewise, similarly
To contrast:
although, and yet, at the same time, but, despite, even though, however, in contrast, in spite of, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, though, yet
To summarize or conclude:
all in all, in conclusion, in other words, in short, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to sum up
To show time:
after, afterward, as, as long as, as soon as, at last, before, during, earlier, finally, formerly, immediately, later, meanwhile, next, since, shortly, subsequently, then, thereafter, until, when, while
To show place or direction:
above, below, beyond, close, elsewhere, farther on, here, nearby, opposite, to the left (north, etc.)
To indicate logical relationship:
accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for this reason, hence, if, otherwise, since, so, then, therefore, thus

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

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