Specific instructional aims

Students understand and able to describe the concept of sentence and the components of a paragraph.

Sub topics

·         definition of sentence
·         paragraph writing (topic sentence, controlling ideas, conclusion)

The sentence

What is a sentence?  A sentence is a group of words consisting of at least a subject and a predicate, and expresses a complete idea.  The subject of a sentence may consists of only one word or a word with modifiers, and the predicate may contain a verb alone or a verb with modifiers.  Thus, a sentence may be very brief, consisting only of the subject-verb unit, or it can be amplified by modifiers.  No matter how long it is, a sentence must have a subject and a predicate (verb) and expresses a complete thought.  However, sometimes a group of words may look like a sentence, but it is not, because it may not have a subject or the main verb (predicate), or both.
In the following examples, the “a” statement is a sentence, while the “b” statement it not a sentence.  In the sentence, the subject is in boldface and the predicate is in italic.
1. a. Many people are waiting in line to buy fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds.
     b. Many people waiting in line to buy fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds.
2. a. The information is important for vegetable growers planning for the intercropping practice in their garden.
     b. Important for vegetable growers planning for the intercropping practice in their garden.
3. a. He is giving instructions to the students doing field works near the glasshouse.
     b. To the students doing field works near the glasshouse.
4. a. The cassava and sweet potato grow very well on sandy soils with adequate water supply.
     b. On sandy soils with adequate water supply.
5. a. Recently the cucurbits are classified into vegetable group.
     b. Recently the cucurbits classified into vegetable group.

Paragraph writing

What is a paragraph?  A paragraph is a group of sentences that has a topic sentence, a controlling idea with a list of ideas, and a conclusion, and the main objective is to convey the central idea clearly and effectively.  In order to write a paragraph clearly, you should connect the sentences smoothly and logically, and in order to write a paragraph effectively, you should pinpoint (focus) the central idea.  Therefore, knowing your sentences thoroughly is very important first step because the sentences are the basic elements to construct a paragraph.
How could we focus the central idea? One of the ways to pinpoint the central idea is to avoid a central idea that is too broad.  To do this, you must go into details of the subject matter you are writing about.  For instance, if you are going to write about the use of pesticides in plant protection programme, you’ll find that this topic is too broad to be written in a single paragraph.  It is not a controlling or central idea.  It is a topic which many scientists have written books or papers.
In order to write a paragraph on the subject of pesticide use in plant protection programme, you must focus on one aspect of pesticide use only.  Thus, you can limit the central idea for your paragraph by writing:  It is important to consider the hazards which can occur because of pesticide use.  The following is an example of how a central idea is developed in a clear and precise details.

Disadvantages of Pesticides
In a discussion of pesticides it is necessary to consider the hazards which can occur because of their use.  Pesticides regularly strike at non-target species as well as the species for which they are intended.  Moreover, the pesticide applications that are generally practiced by farmers can not always be confined to the intended area.  Also, their effectiveness which can last a relatively long time, dose not cease after the pest population has been sufficiently reduced.  Often there are unpredicted results.  These characteristics of pesticides enlarge the inherent risk that is associated with using toxic chemicals and give rise to the controversies which surround their use.  To the environmentalist who is always concerned with clean air, normal pesticide use poses two major difficulties.  First, the broad spectrum activity of these chemicals which certainly contain poisonous elements assures that non-target organisms will be affected as well as target organism.  This aspect of pesticide use produces many practical problems.  One difficulty can arise from a reduction in the organisms that normal aid in pest control.  Heavy and continuous use of pesticide often virtually eliminate the pest’s natural competitors.  Normally, this problem occurs within a single growing season and is generally viewed as a short-term problem that may arise.  Other short-term problems include hazards to farm workers and other people who apply the pesticides.  Unfortunately, most cases of people who are poisoned occur with those who are careless and ignorant.
(Source:  Rangkuti-Hasibuan, S.  1990.  English for Specific Purposes: Agriculture.  PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta, p. 214).

The structure of a paragraph

A paragraph should contain three main parts, i.e. the topic sentence, list of ideas, and a conclusion.  A topic sentence is a sentence showing what the paragraph is about.  A good topic sentence will control the whole paragraph because it does not only clarify what the paragraph is about, but also points out what the paragraph is not about.
A topic sentence normally is placed at the beginning of the paragraph, and it is often the first sentence in the paragraph.  However, for advanced writers it is not necessary to put the topic sentence at the beginning of paragraph.  The topic sentence could be at the end, or it is not stated but rather suggested in other parts of the paragraph.
A topic sentence must fulfill two requirements:  1) it must have a subject, i.e. what we are talking about, and 2) it must have a controlling idea, i.e. what we are saying about the subject.
After making the topic sentence, the next step is to make an outline.  In the outline, you simply write down a list of ideas which support the controlling idea.  The last step is to write down the conclusion, i.e. the restatement of  the topic sentence in different words.  Observe the examples below (the subject is in boldface, and the controlling idea is in italic).
Example 1.
Topic sentence :  Irrigation system help farmers in rural areas.
List of ideas       :  · opening employment opportunities
                                · farmer’s utilization of land to its maximum capacity
                                · two or three harvests a year
                                · not dependent on seasons
                                · simultaneous planting season to fight insects
Conclusion        :  Therefore, irrigation is, indeed, beneficial to farmers.
Example 2.
Topic sentence :  A crop can be protected from parasite by several methods.
List of ideas       :  · by plant quarantine
                                · use of clean seed
                                · rotating annual crops
                                · destroying the sources of infection, “Slash and Burn
                                · chemical attack on the parasite
Conclusion        :  As you can see, these methods have worked well to protect the crops.

Forms and organization of paragraph

The discussion above shows you how to make a topic sentence and an outline.  In the outline you simply write down a list of ideas that will be developed to support the topic sentence.  Thus, a paragraph has three parts: a topic sentence or introduction, a discussion, which contains the development of the controlling idea to support the topic sentence, and a conclusion, which is a restatement of the topic sentence in different words.  In the following example, the organization pattern is shown to you.

Sun-drying of Wet Paddy
Topic sentence: Sun-drying of wet paddy is inexpensive.  Discussion:  In many villages in Indonesia sun-drying of wet paddy is common.  In the method of sun-drying, members of the family can help with the work.  Very simple things are needed: a wide open space, some mats to spread the paddy over, several rakes or tools that can function as rakes.  This method of sun-drying is generally done in the back or front yard of the house.  No skilled laborers or sophisticated machines are needed.  Even children can participate to keep away neighboring chickens from eating the wet paddy.  Conclusion:  Thus, this simple means has made sun-drying cheap.  Therefore, it appeals to the farmers.
(Source:  Rangkuti-Hasibuan, S.  1990.  English for Specific Purposes: Agriculture.  PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta, p. 107).

Students’ activity

Assignment 1

In the following, you are given the outline for a paragraph.  Read carefully and construct a paragraph based on the information given.
Topic Sentence:       Rubber has helped to create our present day modern civilization.
Outline:                      -  rubber is used in transportation and electricity.
                                    -  eighty percent of the component of automotive industry is rubber.
                                    -  rubber is used in transmission, conveyer belts and tires.
                                    -  rubber is used in footwear and cable insulation.
                                    -  rubber is used in coated fabrics to obtain waterproof properties.
Conclusion:              Thus, it can be said that we owe much of our present modern life to rubber.

Assignment 2

As it has been discussed earlier that there are three divisions of a paragraph:  the introduction (topic sentence), the list of ideas (discussion) and the concluding sentence (conclusion).  Indicate these three divisions in the following paragraph.


The rubber industry in Indonesia is facing a difficult situation due to competition among rubber manufaturers.  In Indonesia, tire production has developed quite rapidly and is apparently running at an excess capacity.  Further increases in the tire manufacture may face several basic handicaps.  On the average, the content of natural rubber is 30 to 40% of the tire weight and more ironically the value of that rubber content is merely 20% of the tire price.  Local tire industries face heavy competition in the export market from overseas.  Excessive expenditure for research and development is required to maintain a competitive position to match the progress in tire technology developed by large corporate research organization.  Moreover, a few multinational companies dominate tire production with strict technical control from their headquarters.  There is less chance to incorporate a larger proportion of natural rubber into locally made tires unless authorized by the corporate management.  Consequently, this situation has made Indonesian rubber industry in its way to collapse.

(Source (with modifications):  Rangkuti-Hasibuan, S.  1990.  English for Specific Purposes: Agriculture.  PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta, p. 129).

Vocabulary list

Cucurbit                                    =  tanaman Cucurbitaceae
Environmentalist                     =  pemerhati lingkungan
Growing season                      =  musim tanam
Hazards                                    =  bahaya
Inherent risk                             =  resiko turun-temurun
Intercropping                           =  tumpang sari
Natural competitors                =  pesaing alami
Parasite                                    =  parasit
Poisonous elements                  =  unsur beracun
Rakes                                        =  garu
Sandy soils                              =  tanah berpasir
Slash and Burn                       =  pangkas dan bakar
Sophisticated machines          =  mesin-mesin canggih
Sun-drying                               =  pengeringan dengan bantuan panas matahari
Toxic chemicals                      =  bahan kimia beracun

penulis : Prof.Dr.H.Zulkarnain

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