Monday, March 14, 2016

How Hamburgers Can Help Students Write Outstanding Paragraphs

There’s no better way to get kids excited about learning than incorporating food.  We’ve all done it (or used it as bribery), right?  The second your students walk into your classroom and see all the delicious treats on display, their eyes light up and they instantly become little angels.  Every. single. one of them. Now you have them all right where you want them. (Even that very challenging special little *angel* know the one I’m talking about). 

The age-old idea of using a hamburger to symbolize a paragraph is genius!  It simplifies the task of organizing several sentences on the same subject...especially for beginning writers.  That is why I find myself using this idea every year to teach paragraph writing to my second graders.  

I was introduced to the hamburger paragraph idea by Melissa Forney in her book Primary Pizzazz Writing.  

You can pick up a copy HERE

She shares the idea of using cookies (yummy!), candy (keep talking!), and icing (say no more!), to build a cookie hamburger.  The ingredients are cheap, and it sure beats trying to figure out how to supply twenty greasy hamburgers for your lesson.  Yuck! 

To construct your cookie hamburgers you will need:
  • buns........two vanilla wafers
  • meat........a chocolate-covered mint patty
  • icing in the squirt can
  • mustard...yellow icing in the squirt can

You could even get a little crazy and add:
  • lettuce...flaky coconut (colored green with food coloring)
  • pickle ...small slice of green fruit roll-up

And voila!  You have yourself some delicious cookie hamburgers that will have your students drooling!  It’s the perfect visual aid to help them picture the structure of a paragraph.  

I introduced the idea of writing a paragraph by sharing this anchor chart:

Click here for a copy of this FREEBIE

The students and I discussed how the top bun and the bottom bun hold everything together.  The meat and the toppings are the most important part of the burger.  The more toppings (details) you add, the juicier your burger will be.   

Next, we turned to the experts and looked through several examples of nonfiction texts.  The students and I talked about how most writing we see is made up of paragraphs which organize the information for the reader.

One of the texts we looked at closely was Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Aillaud.

Get a copy of this book HERE

I photocopied one page out of this book (don’t worry one page is legal under “fair use”) so that the students could more closely analyze a paragraph.  We used the hamburger anchor chart as a reference to help us identify the top bun, bottom bun, and all of the juicy details.  The students color coded each part of the paragraph.

As we studied different types of paragraphs from our favorite authors, we discussed how they:
  • used the topic sentence to grab the readers attention
  • used the topic sentence to identify what the paragraph was about
  • used details and examples to teach about the topic
  • connected the conclusion to the topic sentence

Then we “shared the pen” to compose a paragraph together.  At that point, I knew my class was ready to tackle this on their own.

I had them each think about a topic they knew a lot about.  A topic they may even consider themselves an expert on.  After thinking aloud and sharing their thoughts with a partner, each child composed their paragraph on this organizer:
Click here for a copy of this FREEBIE

Now this is where the fun began! 

We assembled our cookie hamburgers (be sure to remind your kiddos NOT to eat them right’s so tempting), and used them to point out each part of our paragraph.  The students couldn’t wait to share what they had written in their hamburgers!  

At last, after waiting SO patiently for the go-ahead, they got to eat their tasty treats!

Our last step, after conferencing and making any necessary corrections, was to rewrite our “hamburgers” into a real paragraph. 

I promise, this activity will be a HUGE hit that your students will be sure to remember!

Want to save this idea for later?  Add it to your Pinterest board by clicking the "pin it" buttons on the images in this post!

Bon appetit!

Visit me at Snips, Snails, & Teacher Tales


  1. Yum! I can not wait to do this activity with my class! What a great way to teach this.

  2. That is some tasty learning fun for sure! My firsties will love this when they get to you! :-)

  3. This looks like so much fun!!! The kiddos are sure to go home and tell their parents about the yummy hamburgers and an experience they will not soon forget!!

  4. Thank you, Melanie for always making writing so fun! Your students are truly blessed!

  5. Melanie, this idea is so cute. I knew the hamburger analogy, but the hamburger-building idea with the cookies is such a great way to help the kids make connections and remember the strategies. Great ideas! And great pictures so we know what to do... love it!