If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.
-- Oscar Wilde

Paragraph Tool

I like to use visual and color cues when teaching my students. A few years ago I created an online paragraph tool that allowed my students to see the connection between a "T-chart" outline and a written paragraph. I have updated this tool and I would like to share it with the teaching community.

The T-chart is a two-column graphic organizer. It is used heavily in the "Step Up to Writing®" program originally developed by Maureen Auman (materials now distributed through Sopris Supplamental Resources). This program uses color coding to help students remember what types of sentences to include and the order in which they should appear in their paragraphs and essays. 

My paragraph tool allows me to develop a T-chart outline and generate a paragraph from it. Each part is color coded. After filling in the T-chart, pushing a button will generate the paragraph; any empty RDF and E fields will not be included in the paragraph. The paragraph sentences will be color coded to match the chart to reinforce the correct structure of the paragraph and the relationship each sentence has to the outline. 

The original version was functional but very basic. I recently acquired more coding skills while working on a rewrite of a running record tool, so I decided to revisit this tool to make it more usable.


  • Color coding - You may wish to turn this off. For example, you may want to write the paragraph and challenge students to figure out which sentences are the RDFs and which are the Es.
  • Transition words - Beginning writers may not be ready to use transition words, so this input can be turned off.
  • Show or hide the "E"s - Again, beginning writers probably won't be using Es yet.
  • Show or hide section labels - You can choose to display primary level labels, upper elementary labels, or no labels.
  • Save paragraph - Click the "Save para to URL" button then make a bookmark in your browser. When you return to this page using the bookmark, the paragraph outline will be loaded again.


I hope you find this tool useful. I use it in-class by projecting it onto the whiteboard. However, you can also use it to print a color hardcopy after generating the paragraph. Please pass this tool on to others who might find it useful, and feel free to contact me with bugs or suggestions. 

In this article, RDF refers to "Reasons, Details, and Facts" (yellow sentences in Step Up to Writing®) that support the main idea, and Es refer to "Elaboration, Examples, Etc" (red sentences) that support the RDFs. Check out this site for an overview of and helpful materials for the Step Up to Writing® program.

(Last modified:09/02/2012)


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