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Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Chapter 4: From Topics to Topic Sentences From this chapter, you’ll learn 1.how to identify the topic, or the subject.

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Presentation on theme: "Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Chapter 4: From Topics to Topic Sentences From this chapter, you’ll learn 1.how to identify the topic, or the subject."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Chapter 4: From Topics to Topic Sentences From this chapter, you’ll learn 1.how to identify the topic, or the subject under discussion. 2.how to use the topic to get to the writer’s main idea. 3.how to identify topic sentences that sum up the main idea.

3 Copyright Laraine Flemming Defining Terms The topic of the paragraph is the subject under discussion. answers the question: “What person, place, event, or thing is the author discussing?” is the starting point for discovering the reading’s main idea, or central thought. is repeated and referred to throughout the passage. is expressed in a single word or brief phrase.

4 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 What do you think is the topic of this paragraph? When Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1958, he thought he was putting a very conservative judge in place, who would be unlikely to promote dramatic changes in the legal system. Warren, however, turned out to be anything but conservative. It was he who pushed through ground- breaking civil rights legislation in 1954 and made the protection of individual liberties a passionate cause throughout his long career. As head of the Supreme Court for sixteen years, Warren was considered an “activist” judge who openly pursued a liberal agenda—much to Eisenhower’s surprise and shock.

5 Copyright Laraine Flemming Any one of the following topics would be correct. Earl Warren’s years on the Supreme Court Earl Warren’s role as Supreme Court Justice The liberalism of Chief Justice Earl Warren But the question you need to be asking now is why?

6 Copyright Laraine Flemming Determining the Topic Again and again, the writer returns to the subject of Earl Warren as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Either Warren’s name or his tenure on the court is referred to throughout the paragraph. That chain of repetition and reference is what makes “Earl Warren’s years on the Supreme Court,” or a similar phrase, the subject under discussion, in other words, the topic of the paragraph.

7 Copyright Laraine Flemming Note the number of references to Warren as Supreme Court head When Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Earl Warren to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1958, he thought he was putting a very conservative judge in place, who would be unlikely to promote dramatic changes in the legal system. Warren, however, turned out to be anything but conservative. It was he who pushed through ground- breaking civil rights legislation in 1954 and made the protection of individual liberties his personal cause throughout his long career. As head of the Supreme Court for sixteen years, Warren was considered an “activist” judge who openly pursued a liberal agenda—much to Eisenhower’s surprise and shock.

8 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 A Word to the Wise The author doesn’t usually identify the topic through repetition of the exact same word or phrase. Instead, the topic is threaded throughout the paragraph by a combination of straight repetition and the use of topic stand- ins or substitutes. Those topic substitutes can take many different forms, i.e., pronouns, synonyms, examples, and related words.

9 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Just So you Know Eisenhower was so upset about how liberal Warren turned out to be, he is said to have called Warren’s appointment the “biggest damned fool mistake I ever made.” Among Warren’s landmark decisions were Brown v. Board of Education, which banned segregation in public schools, and Miranda v. Arizona, which made it illegal for the police to take people into custody without notifying them of their rights, particularly their right to an attorney.

10 Copyright Laraine Flemming What’s the topic of the following paragraph? Are you one of those people who think professional athletes should quit their sport by age thirty, before physical decline sets in? What’s the point, after all, of aging athletes trying to beat opponents ten years younger? It’s hopeless and pathetic. If those are your thoughts, consider the fact that baseball great Nolan Ryan pitched a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in At the time, Ryan was forty-one. In 2003, at the ripe old age of forty-six, tennis player Martina Navratilova won two mixed-doubles crowns, one at Wimbledon and another at the Australian Open. In the 2008 Olympics, no one expected much from forty- one-year-old swimmer Dara Torres, but to everyone’s shock, she became the oldest woman to ever medal at the Olympics. In 2009 boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley was a four-to-one underdog when he walked into the ring against reigning welterweight Antonio Margarito. Few thought the thirty-eight old Mosley had a chance. But they changed their tune when Mosley knocked out Margarito to become the new title-holder.

11 Copyright Laraine Flemming Which of the following would you pick to express the topic of the previous paragraph? 1.Dara Torres 2.Aging Boxers 3.Nolan Ryan 4.Aging Athletes 5.Athlete Heroes

12 Copyright Laraine Flemming The answer should have all the following characteristics: The topic should 1.be repeated and referred to throughout the paragraph. 2.answer the question, “What person, place, event, or thing is the author describing?” 3.be referred to in a variety or ways, through pronouns, synonyms, examples, associated words, and suggestions.

13 Copyright Laraine Flemming The correct answer is “aging athletes” because “aging athletes” is the one phrase that is repeated, in a variety of different ways, throughout the paragraph. it answers the question “What person, group, experience or event is the author discussing in the paragraph?”

14 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 A Word to the Wise Don’t focus solely on word or phrase repetition when trying to determine the topic. Instead, look for words, pronouns, examples, synonyms, and associations that are linked together to form a chain of repetition and reference. A chain of repetition and reference is what links the sentences in a paragraph together and, at the same time, reveals the topic.

15 Copyright Laraine Flemming From the Topic to the Main Idea Once you have a handle on the topic of a reading, you need to take the next step. You need to determine what the author wants to say about the topic. You need, that is, to discover the main idea, or the point of the paragraph.

16 Copyright Laraine Flemming Defining Terms The Main Idea answers the question: “What does the author want to say about the topic?” unifies, or holds together, the sentences in a paragraph. is expressed in a sentence rather than a single word or a phrase.

17 Copyright Laraine Flemming From Topic to Main Idea Here are three topics: 1. Wikipedia 2. Facebook 3. Vaccines against Bird Flu

18 Copyright Laraine Flemming Three Main Ideas: 1.Software now exists that can identify who makes changes to Wikipedia’s entries. 2.More and more employers are blocking employees from accessing Facebook at work. 3.Many drug companies are working hard to develop a vaccine against bird flu.

19 Copyright Laraine Flemming Clues to Main Ideas in Paragraphs Main Ideas 1. are often expressed in one sentence called the “topic sentence.” 2. are likely to appear in the first, second, or third sentence. 3. are further explained as the paragraph continues. 4. answer the questions: 1. What general point does the author make about the topic? 2. What did the author want to tell the reader about the topic?

20 Copyright Laraine Flemming What are the topic and main idea of this paragraph? If something is not done fast, frogs may become extinct. Already, almost one-third of all frog species have vanished. In addition to the human invasion of frog habitats and the ills brought on by air pollution, frogs are being plagued by a mysterious fungus, which plugs their pores and leaves them to suffocate. Amphibian experts all over the world are trying to find a cure for the fungus before frogs disappear from the face of the earth. In parts of Central America, some frogs have been completely removed from their natural habitat and transported to new locations. The goal is keep the healthy frogs safe from the fast-traveling chytrid fungus that has already destroyed entire species of frogs.

21 Copyright Laraine Flemming To find the topic, ask this question: What subject does the author repeatedly refer to? Answer: Frogs Why is “frogs” the correct topic? There is a reference to frogs in every single sentence.

22 Copyright Laraine Flemming What main idea does the author want to communicate about frogs? “If something isn’t done soon, they are going to disappear from the planet.” Why is that answer correct? From first sentence to last, the writer explains how and why frogs are disappearing. Every sentence in the paragraph, one way or another, returns to this point.

23 Copyright Laraine Flemming Topic Sentences Whenever you read a paragraph, be on the lookout for general sentences that seem to sum up most of the sentences in the paragraph. These are topic sentences, and they are designed to give you the author’s key point in a nutshell. Here’s the topic sentence for the paragraph on frogs: If something is not done fast, frogs may go the way of passenger pigeons and disappear.

24 Copyright Laraine Flemming Spotting Topic Sentences That’s the topic sentence because it’s one of the most general sentences in the paragraph. every other sentence in the paragraph develops it. it could be used to answer the question, “What’s the point of the paragraph?” it appears at the beginning of the paragraph.

25 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Particularly in textbooks, topic sentences usually appear at the beginning of a paragraph, but they can turn up in the middle or at the end. If the first sentence opening a paragraph is not further developed by the sentence that follows, the chances are good the topic sentence is also not the first sentence in the paragraph. A Word to the Wise

26 Copyright Laraine Flemming Where’s the topic sentence in this paragraph? Bullying in high schools and elementary schools is a much discussed topic, yet many parents feel that they don’t know whether their child is being bullied. They just can’t tell. However, there are often visible signs that indicate a child is being bullied, and parents should be alert to them. A child might be the object of bullying if he or she comes home from school with unexplained bruises or cuts. Bullying might also be why a child suddenly shows no interest in school work. Another sign is a child’s resistance to talking about school and signs of moodiness or tears upon returning home from school. The sudden onset of insomnia when school starts is yet another indication that a child is being bullied.

27 Copyright Laraine Flemming Which sentence is the topic sentence? 1.Bullying in high schools and elementary schools is a much discussed topic, yet many parents feel that they don’t know whether their child is being bullied. 2.They just can’t tell. 3.However, there are often visible signs that indicate a child is being bullied, which parents should be alert to.

28 Copyright Laraine Flemming Identifying Topic Sentences Answer 3 is the topic sentence because it’s one of the more general sentences in the paragraph. it could function as a summary sentence for the content of the paragraph. most of the other sentences in the paragraph refer to it. it appears at the beginning of the paragraph, which is where most topic sentences appear.

29 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 A Word to the Wise If you are having any doubts about the topic sentence you have selected, turn it into a question and see if the supporting details serve as an answer. For the paragraph on bullying, if you turn the topic sentence into a question--“What are the signs of bullying parents should be alert to?”-- you can see how the supporting details provide an answer, which means your topic sentence choice is correct.

30 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 You’ve previewed the major concepts and skills introduced in Chapter 4. Take this quick quiz to test your mastery of those skills and concepts, and you are ready to read the chapter. Finishing Up: From Topics to Topic Sentences

31 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Finishing Up: From Topics to Topic Sentences 1.True or False. You can identify the topic of a paragraph by looking for the word that is repeated several times. 2. True or False. The topic of a paragraph can always be expressed in a single word.

32 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Finishing Up: From Topics to Topic Sentences 3. True or False. The topic is what unifies all the sentences in a paragraph. 4. True or False. Topic sentences appear most frequently at the beginning of paragraphs, but they can appear anywhere.

33 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Brain Teaser Challenge

34 Copyright Laraine Flemming 2009 Out of these five sentences, which one could best function as the opening topic sentence and why? 1.The battle lasted not days but hours. 2.Custer had been expecting to face a few hundred men, but he had underestimated the enemy’s strength. 3.The 1876 battle of Little Bighorn is also known as “Custer’s Last Stand” and for good reason. 4.When the battle ended, the only thing left alive from Custer’s regiment was one horse. 5.On June 25, 1876, Major General George Armstrong Custer rode into battle against the combined forces of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. Brain Teaser Challenge


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