Posted by: Teacher Man, Teacher Ms. | September 27, 2009

Writing – The Topic Sentence (Part 1)

T.S. = T + M.I. !


I use the formula and then a variety of exercises to teach “the topic sentence.” The formula, written out, says:

Topic Sentence = Topic + Main Idea + Oomph

The Topic is who or what the paragraph is about.

The Main Idea answers the question – What about the topic?

Oomph is anything that adds interest or pizzazz. It gets the reader’s attention.

In my experience, students had difficulty differentiating between “topic” and “main idea.” It seemed best to show that the same “topic” could have many “main ideas.” An example I used in my book Essay Writing: Teaching the Basics from the Ground Up was the example of the topic “My Room.” (Who or what are we writing about? – my room)

The main idea, then, answers the question, “What about your room?” With that in mind, the main idea could be:

how messy it is

all the neat stuff it has

what I would like it to look like

my side vs. my brother’s side

the good, the bad, and the ugly

The next step, and regrettably the last step for some students, is to combine the topic and the main idea. For some, oomph never really happens. But a decent topic sentence beats no topic sentence at all. Here are what I call the “Okay, Good Enough, Ho Hum” topic sentences one could expect from the list above.

My room is really messy.

There is a lot of neat stuff in my room.

I would like my room to look different.

It is not hard to tell my side of the bed room from my brother’s.

My bedroom contains the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Circling and Underlining – in order to verify that a sentence has a topic and a main idea, I ask my students to circle the topic and underline the main idea. The result for the list above should look like this:

And now for a little OOMPH!

I  offer these sentences as examples:

My room looks like a tornado disaster area!

If the Guiness Book of World Records had a “Neatest Stuff in a Teenager’s Room” category, my room would be a winner.

And what exactly is OOMPH? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog.

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