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English for Academic Studies Semester 1, 2009/10

Key to Workshop Session 1: Paragraph Writing © PolyU HKCC

Session 1: Paragraph Writing (Key)
Part A: Diagnostic Test Question A1. Write the letter of each sentence in the sequence that makes sense as a paragraph: 1. D 2.. H 3. F 4. A 5. E 6. C 7. B 8. I 9.G

The original paragraph: D In Hong Kong, the average class size in primary schools is 40 to 45 students. H Many people think that it is too crowded for children to learn in such an environment. F Therefore, it is suggested that the government should introduce small-class teaching, which is very successful in many countries, for example, the US and Canada. Reducing the size of a class will be beneficial to both teachers and students. EWith fewer students in a class, teachers can pay more attention to weaker students and spend more time on them. CTeachers’ workload can also be reduced, as there will be fewer assignments to mark. BMore time can then be used to develop learning activities and teaching materials. IAs a result, students can learn more effectively in class. GThe overall teaching and learning quality can thus be improved. Question A2. Which sentence should be the topic sentence of the paragraph? A Part B: Key Points Review Paragraph Writing: Paragraphs consist of two basic parts: (1) a point (main idea) is made, and (2) specific reasons, details and facts are provided to support that point. For example, the main idea of the paragraph in Part A is how small-class teaching can benefit students and teachers. The supports used by the author are reasons and examples (more time for weaker students, reduction of teaching load, and better learning activities and teaching materials). Topic Sentence: The main idea of a paragraph. Often presented in the first sentence of a paragraph, but may also be at the end, in the middle, or any other place in the paragraph. For example, the topic sentence of the paragraph in Part A is written in the middle:
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English for Academic Studies Semester 1, 2009/10

Key to Workshop Session 1: Paragraph Writing © PolyU HKCC

“Reducing the size of a class will be beneficial to both teachers and students.” We can determine the topic sentence by considering the details in the paragraph. In the example of the paragraph in Part A, most details are about the benefits of small-class teaching for students and teachers. Therefore, the topic sentence (main idea) should be the one cited above. Conversely, students can test their topic sentence identified with the details of the paragraph. For example, the first sentence “In Hong Kong, the average class size in primary schools is 40 to 45 students” states the fact about the local class size. If it is the topic sentence, the paragraph should have more details about the class size, for example, a comparison of class size between Hong Kong and other countries in Asia, Europe and North America. However, no such details can be found in the paragraph. Therefore, this should not be the main idea of the paragraph. Transitional words: Provide logical organization and improve connections and transitions between thoughts. Help a paragraph read more smoothly. In the example of the paragraph in Part A: “Therefore” is used to provide a logical deduction of the previous statement (“Many people think that it is too crowded…”). “Also” is used as an “addition” transitional word to further illustrate the benefits of small class size to teachers. “Then”, “as a result” and “thus” are used to show the consequence of the previous statements. Part C: Concept Boosting Exercise Question C1 (Identifying the Topic Sentence). The topic sentence of the paragraph is in the middle, underlined below: The policy of banning smoking for indoor venues has become a hot topic now. It seems that the government has decided to introduce this policy. The only remaining issue is the implementation schedule. However, the catering industry strongly oppose to this idea as it will affect their business. In my opinion, it is necessary to implement the policy. In fact, smokers force others to take second-hand smoke in a closed environment. According to some experts, second-hand smoke causes more damaging effects on non-smokers, with a higher probability of heart disease and cancer. It’s
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English for Academic Studies Semester 1, 2009/10

Key to Workshop Session 1: Paragraph Writing © PolyU HKCC

even worse for pregnant women. Although banning indoor smoking may lead to a decline in revenue for restaurants, it is worthwhile to do so. A clean air environment can help us enjoy a healthy life. The topic sentence is: “In my opinion, it is necessary to implement the policy.” The author states his/her position in the topic sentence, favouring the implementation of banning smoking indoor. Then, he/she uses facts (the health hazard of second-hand smoke to non-smokers and pregnant women) and reasons (price of health vs business revenue) to support his/her main idea. Question C2 (Using Transitional words): Hong Kong is facing a problem – the outbreak of H5N1 bird flu. It will bring adverse impacts on our society and we need to take some preventive measures immediately. First, Hong Kong’s economy will be affected. Tourists may not want to come to visit Hong Kong because of the outbreak of H5N1 bird flu. As tourism contributes a large portion of our GDP, the decline of number of tourists will have unfavourable effects on our economy. Another problem is that H5N1 bird flu will make the society panic. Since Hong Kong people had experienced an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu before, they know how bad it can be. Therefore, they will be very concerned about the spread of the disease. The worst problem is that H5N1 bird flu is hazardous to our health. If we are unfortunately infected, we may die in the worst case. To conclude, H5N1 bird flu is a serious problem that we need to find ways to solve it as soon as possible. “First” is used, as the author lists two problems resulted from outbreak of H5N1 bird flu. The first one is tourism and the second one is social panic. “Therefore” is used to show a logical deduction of the previous statement. “To conclude” is used to summarise the arguments presented in the paragraph. Part D: Writing Challenge (Homework Practice I) Question D1. This exercise is designed to see if students can write a paragraph by stating the main idea with the support of details organised in a logical sequence and connected with proper transitional words. Answers may vary.

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