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How to Write a Paragraph Using the Jane Schaffer Method Model for Writing


Writing is all about putting words together. Turning words into ideas then into sentences and paragraphs is the method of most writing tasks. To some, writing a paragraph may be an easy task. For those just beginning to write or are in need of guidance in how to create a good paragraph, the Jane Schaffer method of writing simplifies paragraphs. This method is based on the premise that certain elements are always included in a good paragraph.

Jane Schaffer and Controversy

Schaffer was an English teacher who taught writing workshops. Her methodology works well for some people, while others think her style of putting together paragraphs stifling. Under her method, advanced writers who assemble essays and other documents under different formats have trouble following her typical outline (only five sentences in a paragraph, if longer there is a general rule for how much commentary per concrete detail, no first person, etc).

On the other hand, since it contains very basic elements in a paragraph, it is useful for beginner writers to learn from it, and for schools and teachers to teach it.

A Typical Paragraph Set Up

A paragraph under her model consists of these four elements: topic sentence, concrete detail, commentary, and a closing sentence.

  • Topic Sentence (TS): This is the very first sentence in the paragraph. It will be the main point of the paragraph. It should be a simple statement, but anything that describes something can be used in later sentences.
  • Concrete Detail (CD): This will describe what is happening, and contrasting elements, examples, or further evidence of the topic sentence can be transitioned into the other sentences. Concrete details are always facts.
  • Commentary (CM): These will comprise the bulk of the paragraphs. These are not facts, but how the writer interprets the facts from the preceding sentences.
  • Closing Sentence or Conclusion (CS):This will end the paragrah. Using all the elements and previous sentences, this will close things up, or lead into the next paragraph.

How to Write a Paragraph Using the Jane Schaffer Model

Begin the paragraph by listing what the paragraph is going to be about. This is generally called the topic sentence and it will give the reader an idea of what the rest of the paragraph something to build upon.

List one or two concrete details of the story or idea. These will not be opinions or generalizations of the topic. These will support the topic sentence. If there are any facts that can be listed about the subject or story, then this is where to put them in the paragraph.

Identify two (or three) commentary statements. These will actually help explain and tell the reader a little something about the details. These can be descriptive in nature. There is generally more commentary sentences than there are concrete details.

Finish the paragraph with something ties everything up into one sentence. This last sentence is referred to as the concluding sentence, and generally copies or retells the main idea and topic sentence. This will close the paragraph enabling the reader and writer to move along to the next paragraph. If other paragraphs are to follow, transition from this sentence to create another topic sentence.

Resources for Jane Schaffer Writing

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melly;) on January 24, 2012:

i leke this wedsite,it help me a lot thank you!I started using method hen i was in 6 grade.i still used it;)this has help me a lot.Thanks to all my teacher that show me how to do the jane schaffer method please read this;)! you will love this wedsite and her what is the jane shaffer method.

TheWhisper from Macomb,MI on July 28, 2011:

This method is practical in teaching young ones the basics, but as they evolve so should the method. I started using this method when I was young but now my paragraphs tell me when to end. But I also write fiction so it may be a factor. Please read some of my works. :)

SpiffyD from The Caribbean on July 28, 2011:

I'd only use it as a building block, but the problem with that is that it can get pupils boxed in if it is overused. Flexibility when writing is important, but at least this method highlights the important elements of good paragraphing and organization of material. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Ruby Shelton (author) from California, USA on July 28, 2011:

Hazelbrown: I agree! My kids are learning this stuff in elementary school right now. Very stifling for some writers, but great stuff for young kids on how to put a paragraph together. After all, they'll most likely need to know the basics of a paragraph for essays later in school.

hazelbrown from Central PA on July 28, 2011:

I think this is a great way for beginners to start writing paragraphs. There's just no way to move up to more creative writing unless you can write an understandable paragraph! I wish they had taught this when I was in middle school and high school.

FloraBreenRobison on July 28, 2011:

There is no way I write paragraphs of all the same length no matter what that length would be, 5 sntences or 8 sentences, etc. There must be variety. I always had an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence in all of my paragraphs in essays. This 5 sentence method assumes that you have the same amount of things to say about every single topic, and that simply isn't the case. why give the same amount of space to a minor point as you do to your major point? voted up and interesting.

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