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Practice in Composing Topic Sentences

Paragraphs with Examples

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Commonly appearing at (or near) the beginning of a paragraph, a topic sentence expresses the main idea of a paragraph. What usually follows a topic sentence are a number of supporting sentences that develop the main idea with specific details.

This exercise offers practice in creating topic sentences that will attract the interest of your readers.

Each passage below contains a series of sentences with specific examples of a single character trait: (1) patience, (2) a frightful imagination, and (3) a love of reading. What each passage lacks is a topic sentence.

Your job is to complete each paragraph by creating an imaginative topic sentence that both identifies the particular character trait and creates enough interest to keep us reading. The possibilities, of course, are limitless. Nonetheless, when you're done, you may want to compare the topic sentences you have created with the ones (on page two) originally composed by the student authors.

Passage A: Patience

Create a topic sentence.

For example, recently I began taking my two-year-old dog to obedience school. After four weeks of lessons and practice, she has learned to follow only three commands--sit, stand, and lie down--and even those she often gets confused. Frustrating (and costly) as this is, I continue to work with her every day. After dog school, my grandmother and I sometimes go grocery shopping. Inching along those aisles, elbowed by hundreds of fellow customers, backtracking to pick up forgotten items, and standing in the endless line at the checkout, I could easily grow frustrated and cranky. But through years of trying times I have learned to keep my temper in check. Finally, after putting away the groceries, I might go out to a movie with my fiance, to whom I have been engaged for three years. Layoffs, extra jobs, and problems at home have forced us to postpone our wedding date several times. Still, my patience has enabled me to cancel and reschedule our wedding plans again and again without fuss, fights, or tears.

Passage B: A Frightful Imagination

Create a topic sentence.

For instance, when I was in kindergarten, I dreamed that my sister killed people with a television antenna and disposed of their bodies in the woods across the street from my house. For three weeks after that dream I stayed with my grandparents until they finally convinced me that my sister was harmless. Not long afterwards, my grandfather died, and that sparked new fears. I was so terrified that his ghost would visit me that I put two brooms across the doorway of my bedroom at night. Fortunately, my little trick worked. He never came back. More recently, I was terribly frightened after staying up late one night to watch The Ring. I lay awake until dawn clutching my cell phone, ready to ring 911 the moment that spooky little girl stepped out of my TV. Just thinking about it now gives me goosebumps.

Passage C: A Love of Reading

Create a topic sentence.

When I was a young girl, I would make a tent out of my blankets and read Nancy Drew mysteries late into the night. I still read cereal boxes at the breakfast table, newspapers while I am stopped at red lights, and gossip magazines while waiting in line at the supermarket. In fact, I'm a very talented reader. For example, I've mastered the art of talking on the phone while simultaneously reading Dean Koontz or Stephen King. But what I read doesn't matter all that much. In a pinch, I'll read junk mail, an old warranty, a furniture tag ("DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW"), or even, if I'm extremely desperate, a chapter or two in a textbook.


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