Group 5: Writing Effective Topic Sentences


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Group 5: Writing Effective Topic Sentences

Writing Effective Topic Sentences

Topic Sentence


In writing, the topic sentence is the primary thought of each paragraph. It contains the main idea of the paragraph and tells readers what the paragraph is about. Today we will have an overview of what is topic sentence, how to identify topic sentence, and how to write effective topic sentence.


Writing effective topic sentences

Activity 1: Video Watching and Pre-test


This is a short video(ESOL and English Teacher, 2017) about the instruction of topic sentence, please watch it before class, do some note-taking of important points, and finish the pre-test after watching.


Video Notes of Topic Sentence: You are required to fill in the blanks while watching the video(Item No.1-3). Finish True or False questions(Item No.4-6).

1. The topic sentence tells _________________________________________.

2. The main idea is _______________________________________________. It is the ________________________________________________________. 

3. Topic sentence = _______________________ + ______________________.

4. The topic sentence is always located at the beginning of each paragraph.

5. It is usually a complete sentence.

6. A topic sentence should not be too narrow or too broad in meaning.

Activity 2: Identifying Topic Sentence

Topic sentence expresses the central idea of a paragraph. It contains a topic and a controlling idea. Usually topic sentence very much resemble a conductor for an orchestra, it usually stands at the beginning of a paragraph, directing other sentences, and helping other sentences stay focused.


Identify the topic sentences of the following paragraphs by writing them down in the column. 

1. An amoeba can do an unusual mathematical trick: It multiplies by dividing. After it has grown to a certain size, the amoeba’s single cell divides in half to produce two amoebas. In about a day, the two amoebas have grown to the point at which they are ready to divide and form four; the day after that, there are eight amoebas, and so forth. How many amoebas will there be at the end of the week(Jacobs, 1994, cited in Practice Determining the Topic of a Paragraph)


2. Meditation is not easy to define. In general, meditation refers to a group of techniques that induce an altered state of focused attention and heightened awareness. Meditation takes many forms, and has been used for thousands of years as part of religious practices throughout the world. Virtually every major form of religion has a rich tradition of meditative practices—whether Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. However, many people practice meditation independent of any religious tradition or spiritual context. Some forms of psychotherapy also include meditative practice as a component of the overall therapy.


3. Before the twentieth century, women had a single role, that of wife and mother. Occasionally accidents of royal succession placed a woman in a position of great power, and the eighteenth century saw two amazingly long-lasting cases: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, who ruled from 1762 to 1796, and Maria Theresa, de facto [in fact] empress of the Austrian Empire from 1740 to 1780. But what we now think of as “careers” were simply not open to women, with very few exceptions(Kerman et al, 2011, cited in Practice Determining the Topic of a Paragraph ).


Activity 3: Recognizing the Features of Topic Sentences

Topic sentence expresses the central idea of a paragraph. It contains a topic and a controlling idea.


Multiple choice questions: By reading the following paragraphs, you are going to choose  the topic of each paragraph.

1. People have always been interested in bees. This interest may have begun with the honey that bees make. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence that people have been eating honey for many thousands of year. In the more recent past, people were interested in the way bees made honey. They admired the way bees seemed to work so hard. Some languages even developed expressions about people working like bees. In English, for example, we talk about a “busy bee.” Now scientists have a new reason to be interested in bees. They have discovered that bees are able to communicate with each other. Research has revealed some surprising facts about this, but there are still many mysteries.

2. Communication is also possible among bees through their sense of smell. A group of bees, called a colony, uses smell to protect itself from other bees. This is possible because all the bees in a colony have a common smell. This smell acts like a chemical signal. It warns the group of bees when a bee from a different colony is near. In this way, bees from outside cannot enter and disturb a hive(the bee colony’s home). If an outsider does try to enter, the bees of that colony will smell it and attack it.

3. Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. Whales are the largest sea animals. These two huge animals may, in fact, come from the same biological family. Biologists now believe that the ancestors of elephants once lived in the sea, like whales. There is plenty of evidence to support this idea. For example, the shape of a elephant’s head is similar to a whale’s. Another similarity is in the fact that both animals are excellent swimmers. Some elephants have chosen to swim for food to islands up to 300 miles away. Like the whale, the elephant uses sounds to show anger or for other kinds of communication. Finally, both female elephants and female whales stay close to other females and help them when they give birth.

Additional Resources

Further Readings:

1.Examples of Topic Sentences and How to Write Them

Activity 4: Choosing the Effective Topic Sentence


Some sentences are possibly too broad, too narrow or having two controlling ideas in one sentence. They are not effective topic sentences. Read the following three pairs of topic sentences and decide which is better in each pair.

1.a. Learning a second language is important.

   b. Learning a second language creates job opportunities.

2. a. My sister and I have different personalities.

    b. My sister and I have different personalities and we have an extended family.  

3. a. Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana lived at different times.

    b. Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana lived at different times, but their lives had surprising similarities.  

Activity 5: Composing Your Own Topic Sentences


Now write two or three topic sentences for each of the following topics. You should choose two or three different controlling ideas for the same topic.

1. Television’s effects on children

2. Artificial intelligence

3. Corporal punishment


1) ESOL and English Teacher, 2017, Youtube. Retrieved from [24 May 2018]

2) Practice Determining the Topic of a Paragraph. Retrevied from [24 May, 2018]

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