Stoplight Paragraphs

 Have you seen this method of teaching
paragraph writing before???

I stumbled upon this idea 6 years ago here.
Then, I kind of forgot about it until now.
Maybe because the next year I moved to 4th for
one year, then to 2nd the following year and that's
where I've been ever since!
I guess all that moving around made me forget a few
things! :)
We've been studying main idea for the past several weeks
and I thought it would be the perfect time to transition
to writing paragraphs.
I remembered the stoplight method and it worked great
with my kiddos this time, too.
Now, their topic and closing sentences are not perfect, but
its a start...especially for those kiddos who had never even
heard the word paragraph before!
Since we've also been working on our space unit, I decided
we'd write paragraphs about the moon.
First, we read several books all about the moon and
then made this bubble map together.
 Next, I had the kids make a bubble map in their journals
and they picked 4 or 5 facts from our class map
to add to theirs...what they wanted to include in 
their own paragraph.

We went over the rules to writing a paragraph
and the stoplight method...
 Obviously, the green and red lights are switched
on a paragraph stoplight {as opposed to a real stoplight!}.
It just makes more
sense for the topic sentence to be green and 
for it to be at the top...like, 
"GO! Start your paragraph!"
We wrote a paragraph together first, to practice the rules.
I cut 1" strips of green, yellow, and red
construction paper, and I just chose
a color for the background that I knew the colors
would pop against.
I handed out only the green strips first and the kids
wrote their topic sentences. I demonstrated this
first, using the topic sentence from our class paragraph.
 I pointed out that they needed to start writing at the edge of
the sentence strip and one of the kiddos raised 
their hand and said, "But,  don't we need to indent???"
It almost brought a tear to my eye, thinking,
"Why, yes! Yes we do!!! But not yet!"

Some kiddos will need more than one green strip to fit
their entire topic sentence on and that is ok.
When everyone was ready, I passed out 1 yellow strip and the
kids got started on their supporting sentences, one at a time.
Finally, we got to the closing sentences and we used the red

The next day, I showed them how they were going to take their
sentences strips and turn it into a paragraph!
First, I had them lay their sentences out on their desk in order
like this...

{notice some sentences take more than 1 strip}
Cut off any excess on ALL of the sentences.
  I demonstrated how to lay their topic sentence on their paper
and indent. BEFORE we glue it down, we have to see
if the whole sentence will fit. 
If not, we cut the strip after the last
word that will fit and the rest will go down on the second line. 
My entire topic sentence did fit, but most will not!

{EDIT: A few people have left comments since I published this about
how my topic sentence is not really a topic sentence. I realize I could
have chosen something a little more simple, like, "There are many
interesting facts about the moon." as the first sentence. However, I also feel that mine is a topic
sentence, as I use the words, "The moon," at the beginning and state a simple
fact to grab the readers attention! Several of
our expostitory texts from our reading series included paragraphs where
there was NOT a cookie cutter topic sentence, yet my students were still
required to identify the main idea of the paragraph. This is just ONE
example of a paragraph I used with my kiddos. I also explain to my
students that the main idea is not always found in the topic sentence, but
also the closing sentence. Just thought I would clarily. :)  If you disagree,
then that's your own cup of tea!}

Here I am positioning the other sentences, and trimming 
after the last word that will fit on that line...

I really like this activity because it's a hands-on approach to writing
a paragraph. I think this helps some of the kiddos grasp the
concept, "Oh, if there isn't room to write the next word, I go
down to the next line and it's no big deal!"
This also helps those who want to always start on a new line
at the end of each sentence. They can see that they should
use the rest of the space available on the line they are currently
on to start the next sentence. "Don't waste any room!" I tell them. :)
I can literally see that lightbulb turning on over and over again on
their faces!
The kids worked VERY hard on these so I decided to display it
out in the hallway.
 I split this lesson into two days and I would highly recommend that!
 Here's a anchor chart displaying the stoplight paragraph
if you'd like to use this in your clasroom. Just click the pic
to download.

I hope this all makes sense...if not feel free to email me if you
have any questions!


  1. I absolutely love this! I teach resource room kiddos and we have such a hard time with things that aren't concrete. I am heading out for colored paper today and putting this in practice next week.

    Thank you!

  2. This is great!! My kids would really benefit from this. I am downloading the freebie right now!! Hope you have a good weekend. Can't believe my tigers lost!!!

  3. I absolutely LOVE this idea! my 2nd graders are all over the page when writing their papers, and this will really help. We are working on research papers about animals right now, so I am going to use this next week when we begin writing them in class.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. I really like this paragraph idea. It's such a good visual for them! I'm DEFINITELY going to be trying it with my kiddos this 9 weeks to get them ready for 3rd grade. THANKS for sharing!

    I always love your ideas. I don't know if you've been awarded the Top 10 award yet, but I posted about you. Check it out if you like.

    Squirrel-Bottom Diaries :o)

  5. Genius! I so want to use this at the beginning of next year, but I can use it now with my intervention group! Thanks for the anchor chart!

    Emily @ Second Grade Silliness 

    1. I hope I have your "permission to pin" this on pinterest. It already has over 100 repins so I hope you get some traffic. =) Let me know if not and I'll remove it.

      Emily @ Second Grade Silliness 

  6. I love this! I will definitely using it soon. THANKS for sharing.

  7. This is very reminiscent of the Step Up to Writing program that our district uses. The only difference (for primary) is that the "red light" is used to further explain the detail. In addtion, a "green light" is both the topic sentence and conclusion. Our students' writing has improved tremendously since our district began using this program about 5 years ago. Hope it works as well for you! :)

  8. Hi! I am your newest follower! Love your blog! Keep up the cool stuff! I love following other 2nd grade blogs. . . Come visit me sometime, I have a lot of freebies there!
    Second In Line

  9. that's really cool!! thank you!!

  10. So loving this idea! We are doing a moon unit, too so this is just perfect. Thanks for sharing. I am your latest fan.

  11. I love your blog! I'm moving from kindergarten to 2nd grade next year and appreciate all of your ideas, pictures, and explanations. I know I'll be referring to it quite often ~ it's already been a big help as I look ahead to 2nd grade :)

  12. I plan on using this with my struggling kiddos! I love the hands-on colored strip component. Thanks for sharing! :)


  13. I just blogged about this!

  14. I love this idea. Thank you. I came here via Jen from The Teachers Cauldron. And now I'm your newest follower :)

    Grade ONEderful

  15. I LOVE this idea! Shared it with my grade 2 colleagues ;)

    I'm your newest follower,

    All Students Can SHINE

  16. Thanks for sharing this great idea. I forwarded it to my colleagues and can't wait to see it in action. Thanks again.

  17. Omg! I love this. Especially the part where you cut the strip when it wouldn't fit on the page. I have so many kids who just want to start a new line for a new sentence or they shove 8 words into a space for 1 word. This is so, so smart! Thanks for sharing!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

  18. I just have to say this is genius! Especially to us teachers who struggle teaching writing!!!!!

  19. This is a wonderful activity and a perfect way to lay it out, especially for those visual and hands on learners! The only issue I see is that the topic sentence "The moon is covered with craters" is not really a topic sentence, but one of the regular sentences since the paragraph is really about the moon and not about it having craters. I would say "There are many interesting facts about the moon" should be the topic sentence. Otherwise, great job!

  20. thank you so much! i am homeschooling my 7th grader now and she just has never really grasped how to clearly organize a paragraph. i think this method could be very helpful for her! (she's been in public school up till now)

  21. Love this! Doing it tomorrow with my fourth graders!

  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  23. Good day! First of all I would like to say the fact that you definitely succeeded in building a stunning resource. And I got a question for you. Have you ever taken place in some sort of competitions among bloggers?

  24. Cool idea for paragraphs! Just wondering why the red light is at the bottom (instead of a real stop & go light where the red light is at the top)?

    1. It looks like a stoplight, but its modified for a "paragraph stoplight". It makes more sense to me, to have red be the closing.

  25. thank you so much! i'm working with my 3rd graders on writing paragraphs and love this very hands-on approach. i think they will love it!

  26. I realize that the topic was explained, but starting every sentence with "the moon" is not very good writing either. Other than that, the concept is neat.

    1. I'm confused. I didn't start every sentence with the moon. Anyway, this is 1st and 2nd grade paragraph. Depending on the grade level one teaches, expectations may be higher or lower. :)

  27. I regard simple and easy progression into more complex topic sentences and even the re-use of "The moon" in subsequent sentence as GREAT!!!!! WHY, because it focuses on the moon the topic of the entire paragraph and for a beginner it serves to build confidence while learning. A child may feel as if saying "The moon" in each sentence makes perfect sense. Improvement is progress. I really love this idea you found and enhanced - very organized. Thanks for sharing

  28. Thanks so much for sharing this idea. I have been searching for a way to demonstrate to my second graders how to write a paragraph. I use the 4 Square Writing method to teach writing and this poster will work wonderfully with it.

  29. thank you so much for sharing this!

  30. Thanks for the post! I normally teach high school Spanish but am working with ESL kids for 2 weeks this summer. My group is made up of 1/2 4th graders and 1/2 2nd graders so I'm having to be flexible on how I do things. I like the construction paper sentence strips and may try that tomorrow!

  31. love this idea. thanks for sharing

  32. Brilliant! Thank you very much the children found this a great way to understand how to write paragraphs about their holiday.

  33. i did this in 1st grade! as a tutor, i was trying to find this so that i could do the same activity with my incoming 3rd graders. glad i found this. thank you!

  34. Thank you!! I homeschool my son and we have struggled with this topic. I think this activity is absolutely perfect! He is a visual and hands on learner, so I think this will be great. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this out there!

  35. This is a great idea to color code a paragraph, and your ending sentence in the moon example does a good job of restating the topic of the paragraph. The green sentence, however, is not a topic sentence. It is another interesting fact and should be yellow. The topic sentence needs to be the main idea, the middles support it, and the ending sentence reflects or restates the topic sentence. Your anchor chart teaches that nicely. The topic sentence might have been "There are many interesting things to learn about the moon."

  36. How do you contact Mrs. Prince

  37. How can I talk to you about using your information in my class?
    My email is rclayton@mpsb.us

  38. Hi, I am a gr 3 teacher and would like to use your paragraph images if possible