Let’s start by talking about writing. What do you think are important things to know about writing in the history classroom? What types of things do you write about? How is your writing organized? Answer the question below.
Today we will look at the components, or parts, of a paragraph. Paragraphs have 4 components. Try to list each one below and explain what they are.
Now we will read a model paragraph from the textbook, while learning about each of these components of a paragraph in order to answer our question: What were the causes of the Civil War?
Each paragraph will provide us with information about the causes of the Civil War so we can answer our question.
Paragraph 1: The greatest obstacle to Taylor’s plan was concern over the balance of power in the Senate. In 1849 the nation included 15 slave states and 15 free states. If California entered as a free state – and New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah followed as free states – which seemed likely – the South would be hopelessly outvoted in the Senate. As tension grew, some Southerners began talking about having their states secede from, or leave, the United States.
In January 1850, Henry Clay, now a senator, presented a plan to settle all the issues dividing Congress. First, California would be admitted as a free state. Second, the New Mexico Territory would have no restrictions on slavery. Third, the New Mexico-Texas border dispute would be settled in favor of New Mexico. Fourth, the slave trade, but not slavery itself, would be abolished in the District of Columbia. Finally, Clay pushed for a stronger fugitive slave law.
Underline the topic sentence (TS).
What is the main idea of the topic sentence?
This second sentence is the concrete detail (CD). The concrete details that an author can include are: explanations of what happened, descriptions of who was involved in the event, and when it happened. Circle the actions and people who in this sentence.
The third sentence contains the commentary (CM) and answers the question: Why is this important? This part of the paragraph is also called ANALYSIS and is the most important part of the paragraph because this is where you make your claim. Underline the parts of sentence 3 you think are most important.
The fourth part of a paragraph is the concluding sentence (CS). Why is a conclusion an important part of a paragraph?
Sometimes paragraphs do not have only 4 sentences, but they still follow the model.
Underline the topic sentence.
Circle the concrete details.
Turn to page 546 in your textbook and look at the map on the left entitled “The Compromise of 1850.” Locate each of the states or territories mentioned in this sentence.
According to the map, do you think Southerners and pro-slavery advocates would be pleased with Clay’s Compromise?
The commentary sentence gives the reader information about The Compromise of 1850.
After reading the concluding sentence (CS), why do you think Clay would need to push “for a stronger fugitive slave law” in order to get the Compromise passed in Congress?
Northern Democrats in the House split almost evenly on the vote, revealing deep divisions in the party. Many Northerners became convinced that compromise with the South was no longer possible. Sam Houston, senator from Texas, predicted that the bill “will convulse [upset] the country from Maine to the Rio Grande.”
Sometimes paragraphs do not have 4 sentences, but do contain enough information to allow us to answer our question.
What are the concrete details in this paragraph? List them below.
How did divisions in Congress reflect growing tensions between the North and the South?
Explain how this allows you to answer your question:
What were the causes of the Civil War?
The Civil War did not happen overnight. It took decades of conflicts over land expansion and ideas concerning the extension of slavery into these new territories. The paragraphs you read above give many causes for the Civil War. List some of the causes of the Civil War based on the text above.
List some of the other causes of the Civil War that you have learned about in class.
Now it is your turn to try to write a paragraph about the causes of the Civil War. Some parts of the paragraph have been written already, so you need to provide the rest of the components.
While the South did not secede from the Union until 1861, there were many events that lead to the nation’s breakdown (TS). For example,___________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________(CD). Conflict over new western territory and concerns about slavery were central to the causes of the Civil War (CM). Conflicts over land expansion and slavery lasted from _______ to __________ and ______________________________________________________________________________ was a major cause of the Civil War (CS).