It was a sunny morning, and everything seemed happy. Then Sparkler looked at the day’s school assignment. “Write a paragraph of three or more sentences about a historical figure from the 19th century.” Sparkler’s day was not good after that.

Editor’s note: “It was a sunny morning, and everything seemed happy” is a not a strong topic sentence for this paragraph. Remember, a topic sentence contains the “main idea” of the paragraph. The rest of the sentences should support this idea.

Sparkler was enjoying the sunny morning until she looked at the day’s assignment. It said, “Write a paragraph of three or more sentences about a historical figure from the 19th century.” Sparkler’s day was not good after that.

Editor’s note: Better topic sentence! Yet this “paragraph” contains only two more sentences, neither of which really supports it. Why was Sparkler’s day not good after she read the assignment? Remember, the reader knows only what you tell her.

Sparkler was enjoying the sunny morning until she looked at the day’s assignment. “Write a paragraph of three or more sentences about a historical figure from the 19th century.” Sparkler couldn’t even think of anybody who lived in the 19th century. Did Jesus live then? Or maybe Benjamin Franklin? Sparkler’s day was not good after that.

Editor’s note: We’re getting there! One of your “sentences” is technically a fragment, but it flows well for this type of paragraph, so we’ll leave it. Be descriptive; in what way was Sparkler’s day “not good”? Also, just want to mention this—it’s not hard to skim over a history unit and pick out a name to research.

Sparkler was enjoying the sunny morning until she looked at the day’s assignment. It said, “Write a paragraph of three or more sentences about a historical figure from the 19th century.” Sparkler picked out Harriet Tubman, but then she felt like crying. She didn’t know how to write about anybody in just one paragraph. Her stomach hurt, and she had a headache that lasted until she went to bed. Her day was ruined.

Editor’s Note: Well done! Your supporting sentences give evidence for your topic sentence, and you included good descriptive words. Just a little more polish, and you’ve got it!

Sparkler was enjoying the sunny morning until she looked at the day’s assignment. It said, “Write an exhaustively-researched biography of the most important historical figure in all of the 19th century, with flawless grammar and absolutely the most polished prose possible. Due starting now. Ten. Nine. Eight…” Sparkler chose Harriet Tubman but wasn’t sure if she was the most important historical figure. The uncertainty made her stomach hurt. Her mother said, “All you have to do is answer the questions who, when, where, and what.” As if she could fit Harriet Tubman’s entire life and accomplishments in one paragraph! Her mother’s heartless statement only added to the crushing pressure. Sparkler began to cry, and her mother got frustrated. Finally, with the deadline bearing down on her, Sparkler banged out five sentences that barely told anything about Harriet—just when she was born and died, and a couple of important things she did in her life. It was a total failure, even though her mother said it was fine. Her mother had to take ibuprofen just so she could cook supper, and Sparkler’s head hurt until bedtime.

Editor’s Husband’s Note: Um, hey, sweetheart? The paragraph is done. It’s fine. Here’s some chocolate. Why don’t you take an hour to yourself in your room? 

—Sara