Identifying paragraph topics… in Tenerife

Jasmine Short

In need of a holiday? Take your students on a trip to Tenerife with our travel guide activity, taken from the Cambridge IGCSE™ First Language English series. This fun classroom activity comes from Part 1, Unit 1A: Identifying paragraph topics and is perfect for developing the summary skills of teenage students. Teach your students how to identify a topic in a paragraph and develop their general understanding with our paragraph structure exercises.

Cambridge IGCSE First Language English skills: Inference, summarising, paraphrasing, structuring, evaluating and more.

Resources: Pencils, paper and copies of both texts.

Paragraphs activity

1. Tell your students that they are going to read a passage about an island. Ask them to write down words associated with islands and create a mind map to connect all of the ideas they can think of.

2. Ask students to look at their mind maps in pairs and think about possible answers to the following questions.

  • What islands or types of islands are you imagining?
  • Why are islands generally considered attractive?
  • What are the disadvantages of living on, or being on, an island?


3. Tell students to skim-read an informative passage about Tenerife.

Teachable Moment: Remind your students how to skim-read by reading a text twice. First, skim the text to get the gist, then scan the text for specific information.

4. Now test how much information students were able to take in from close reading. Ask students to answer the following general questions about Tenerife, compare their answers with their partner’s and check the passage to see who is right.

  • What are the most noticeable features of the scenery?
  • What can tourists spend their time doing?
  • What is the temperature like?
  • What contributes to the local economy?
  • What is there to see?


5. Ask your students to scan the passage and find the single word in each paragraph that could be used as a topic heading for that paragraph. Are their choices the same as their partner’s?

6. Next, ask students to skim the passage about Cape Town, and decide where it should be divided into paragraphs.

7. In pairs, ask students to discuss how many paragraphs they made, where they chose to place the breaks and why.

8. Ask students to scan the passage and for each of the paragraphs think of a heading to indicate its topic, as if for a tourist brochure. This time, instead of using words from the passage, ask students to think of synonyms (words or phrases with the same meaning) where possible.

9. According to the passage, Cape Town has lots of attractions for visitors. Get students to develop their summary skills by writing one sentence summarising the various attractions.

10. In their pairs, ask students to draw brackets around any parts of the passage they would not include in a summary about the city.

Teachable Moment: Now is a great time to teach students about complex sentences as they save time, and words, when writing. A complex sentence has at least two clauses (groups of words containing finite verbs): one main clause, which could stand as a sentence on its own, and one or more subordinate clauses, which are not grammatically complete sentences and should usually be separated from the main clause by commas. Subordinate clauses are often introduced by connectives which can go before or after the main clause.

11. Finish the paragraphs activity by discussing the two passages as a class, collecting notes on the board about the typical features, content and style of guidebooks.

If you and your students enjoyed this paragraphs activity, then take a look at Cambridge IGCSE First Language English series for more classroom exercises, task tips and teacher resources.

Jasmine Short
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