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Power Writing

September 23, 2011

In every room of our school, we have "Power Writing" posters. These are posters that give students a formula to write a complete paragraph. Since I support my school's literacy schools in every way possible, I encourage my students to use this formula to write great paragraphs in Spanish, just as they would in English.

Teach students to how to write a powerful paragraph using formulas that combine prescribed sentence types. @comprehensibleclassroom


Second Language Acquisition research demonstrates that those who read more, write better: it is reading, not practice that helps learners improve their writing style ("We learn to write by reading, but writing can make us smarter", Krashen, 1993). Sharing the Power Writing formulas with your students will not improve their writing style; however, it might help them to know what to write – to figure out how to get the information that is in their heads onto the page.

In a way, the Power Writing frameworks are similar to Story Frames. Students fill in the framework with the information that they want to share using language that they have acquired.


There are four kinds of Power writing sentences:

  1. Topic Sentence: Your main idea.
  2. Major detail: An idea that supports your topic sentence.
  3. Minor Detail: An idea that elaborates on the major detail.
  4. Concluding Statement: Your topic sentence, or main idea, restated.


When it comes time to create a Power Writing paragraph, the writer chooses pre-determined formulas that lay out how to put together the paragraph by combining different sentence types. There are several formulas to work from based on how many details you want to include.

The most basic formula is 1-2-3-2-3-4 (topic sentence, major detail, minor detail, major detail, minor detail, concluding statement). However, the writer can add infinitely more details (1-2-3-3-2-3-3-2-3-3-4, for example). Some power writing formulas also include another sentence types, like quotes or concrete ideas.


So what does a Power Writing paragraph look like?

Here is a sample paragraph in English, labeled with the sentence types listed above:

(1) It is easy to learn Spanish in Mrs. Bex's Spanish classes! (2) One way that we learn Spanish is by creating stories. (3) The stories are interesting, unique, and personal. (2) Another way that we learn Spanish is by reading. (3) We read many different kinds of things, like children's books, song lyrics, short stories, and articles. (4) Mrs. Bex makes sure that we always understand what we are reading and hearing, so learning Spanish is a breeze!


This formula works for any writing prompt, and I have found that it is helpful to provide students with a form or graphic organizer to help them develop the habit of writing paragraphs like these. I recommend giving it to students for the first few times that they use this structure— until they are able to write it on their own on demand.

Write powerful paragraphs by supporting the topic sentence with major and minor details! Use this graphic organizer to help your students develop the habit.

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