Friday, October 16, 2009


As I stood outside looking up at a colorful fall tree during a free period yesterday, it slowly came to me that good paragraphs are like trees. I allowed this idea to expand for a few minutes, then walked eagerly back to my classroom and asked the students coming in for the next class to join me outside. We stood beneath the tree as it shook and rustled in the cold wind, and I asked the students if they saw anything in the tree that reminded them of something we have learned in English class. They shivered and huddled together and stared at the tree, with its substantial trunk and three main branches and countless swaying limbs and shaking leaves. Soon a girl said, “I guess it’s sort of like a paragraph.” “Yeah,” a boy said, “the trunk is the topic of the paragraph,” and another boy added “and the three big branches are the supporting points.” We trembled in the wintry wind and talked for a moment more about the analogy -- a small, somewhat reserved girl said all the shivering leaves were like the words in your paragraph that you want to shiver inside the reader – and then we returned to the classroom for a lesson on irony. Every so often I glanced out at the tree as it bent and bowed in the wind, the countless leaves shaking like lively words.

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