Context Paragraphs Writing Activity

Here's another great writing activity I picked up at a conference in Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago. This can be used (and adapted) for any age or grade level, or any course or subject area. Context paragraphs are similar to our Context Sentences, except students are writing out paragraphs to use their word list.

The activity begins with a word list you have generated for the students. These words can include any terms or vocabulary from your class or unit that you are currently studying. Students need to use each word correctly (its proper definition) in the context of the paragraph.

You will also want to add several 'supporting' words or terms to help in writing proficiently about the main terms (and topic). Finally, you will want to include other words for creativity. Add in descriptive verbs and adjectives for students to use. And if you want to make things more interesting (or make your students work harder), include some 'oddball' or unusual words to the list.

Keep your students in mind as you create your word list. At the seventh grade level, we use between 16 and 20 words on our list. But even this number can be adjusted depending on how much time you've allotted for the writing. The less time available, obviously the fewer words to include.

You can now decide on the topic of the paragraph. It could simply be a recap of what you covered in class that day. It could be a summary of a unit or section of the reading. This can be a great review activity for any class.

You could even let the students be creative and choose their own topic. Or have them write in poetry, narrative, or in a story form. You might allow students to make up a fictional story using the word list. You might even try out different styles and topics each time you do this activity.

Context Paragraphs don't have to be a solo act either. Students can partner up and work together (I've found that groups of three work particularly well, as the 'writer' sits in the middle and the 'idea generators' sit on either side.) This also works as a 'Write Around' where one student passes the paper to the next student who continues the story for a given amount of time (1-2 minutes) or amount of writing (1-3 sentences) or a specific number of words from the list (1-4 words).

As always, allow students to share their writings in class. Some of the memorable stories I've heard included medieval knights utilizing modern business concepts, chefs cooking with math terms like 'pi', and raindrops following through the water cycle. Your students can have a lot of fun writing while reviewing their vocabulary terms in a paragraph structure.