Lesson 2: John and Abigail Adams


Activity 1: Paragraph Analysis

In writing, sometimes we can get away with just writing a list of unconnected words (a grocery list) or a simple sentence or two (a note to a sibling reminding her to walk the dog). But usually the ideas we're trying to convey are complex enough that they will require multiple sentences that must be organized in a way that will make sense and allow the reader to easily follow what we are trying to share.

All of the individual sentences in a successful paragraph focus on a main idea, providing evidence and support that will help the reader understand that idea more fully and become convinced of its validity. A paragraph usually includes these main parts:
  • A topic sentence that states the main point of the paragraph. This is usually the first sentence in the paragraph, but it may sometimes be the second sentence if the author has included a transition at the very beginning of the sentence.
  • Supporting sentences that demonstrate or provide evidence for the main point of the paragraph, deepen the reader's understanding of the topic, or provide necessary background information.
  • A concluding observation that summarizes the paragraph and/or connects the ideas covered in one paragraph to the ideas that will come later in the larger body of writing. This observation usually occurs at or near the end of the paragraph.
The following sample paragraph illustrates how sentences can function in a paragraph:

The platypus is an uncommonly odd creature. (<—Topic sentence) Unlike most mammals, the female platypus lays eggs instead of giving birth to live offspring. (<—Gives an example that shows how uncommon the animal is.) It looks like a strange mash-up of several types of animals. (<—Provides an illustration of its oddness.) It has the feet of an otter, the snout of a duck, and the tail of a beaver. (<—Describes the "mash-up" in more detail.) In fact, when European explorers first saw the platypus, they thought is was a clever hoax created by someone who had sewn together parts of various animals! (<—Gives background information and deepens the reader's understanding of the animal's strangeness.)

Although it may be tempting to examine this strange critter up close, be careful — the male can inject you with very painful venom. (<—Gives a concluding observation and provides additional evidence of the animal's oddness.)

Ask a parent which option you should complete for this activity.
In this activity, your child will begin to explore paragraph structure by analyzing a paragraph from the day's reading and then by finding the problems in a poorly executed paragraph. Your child will continue to work on paragraph development throughout this unit and other units of this level of Moving Beyond the Page.

There are two options for this paragraph analysis activity. The content and vocabulary of the paragraph in Option 1 are easier to understand than in Option 2's paragraph. Option 1 also provides more guidance for analyzing the paragraph. Glance over each option and decide which one would be more appropriate for your child.

Option 1

Read the paragraph on the activity page (it is the 12th paragraph of Chapter 3) and then complete the "Paragraph Analysis" (Option 1) activity page related to the paragraph.
Student Activity Page
Answer Key (Option 1)

Part I
Here are suggested comments for each sentence. Your child's answers may differ but should make sense.

1. But Abigail's mother was not pleased about this attraction. (The "but" transitions from the previous paragraph, states the main point of the paragraph, and is also the topic sentence of the paragraph.)
2. She had given her blessing to the marriage of her eldest daughter to Richard Cranch on November 25, 1762. (Provides background information)
3. But she looked on John Adams as a struggling country lawyer whose lack of grace and polish, rude outbursts, and moody silences were not a fit match for her fragile but gifted middle daughter. (Gives specific examples to illustrate why the mother wasn't pleased.)
4. She had hoped that Abigail would marry into a more "noble" family. (Concluding thought showing what the mother did want.)
Part II
The out-of-place sentences are #2 and #5.
#2 doesn't work because it implies John doesn't like the farm, but the paragraph is about how he does enjoy it
#5 doesn't have to do with the farm at all, so it shouldn't be in the paragraph.

Option 2

Read the 10th paragraph of Chapter IV, which begins, "The new king's first minister, William Pitt...". You should also read the paragraphs that come right before and right after this one to understand the paragraph in context and see if there are transitions between paragraphs. Then complete the "Paragraph Analysis" (Option 2) activity pages.
Answer Key (Option 2)

Part I:
Here are suggested comments for each sentence. Your child's answers may differ but should make sense.

1. The new king's first minister, William Pitt, expected financial assistance from America. (Illustrates the situation brought up in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Sets the stage for the current paragraph. Can be considered a topic sentence.)
2. He tightened up customs duties and reintroduced the Writs of Assistance. (Provides examples of how Pitt tried to get financial assistance.)
3. These writs allowed customs officers to break into ships, shops, homes, or warehouses suspected of containing smuggled goods without a specific warrant. (Provides background information to explain the Writs)
4. The colonists were angry. (Explains the results of the unreasonable actions described in the previous sentence.)
5. This was a breach of the constitutional liberties of all Englishmen. (Explains why colonists were angry.)
6. Arbitrary search was the weapon of tyrants, they said. (Deepens the reader's understanding of why colonists opposed the writs.)
7. It must be resisted at its very beginning. (Transitions to the next paragraph about resistance.)

Part II
The out-of-place sentences are #2 and #5.
#2 doesn't work because it implies John doesn't like the farm, but the paragraph is about how he does enjoy it
#5 doesn't have to do with the farm at all, so it shouldn't be in the paragraph
Your child's replacement sentences should fit the flow and theme of the paragraph (John's happiness about farm life).

Activity 2: John Adams the Suitor

Abigail Smith's parents, especially her mother, were not initially overly enthusiastic about John Adams as a potential suitor for Abigail. In this activity, you are considering whether or not you want to grant permission for your daughter to marry John Adams. Think about some of the pros and cons of Adams as a potential marriage partner for Abigail and consider the role of marriage in colonial life more broadly. Complete the page, "John Adams, The Suitor."
Student Activity Page
In this activity, your child will consider the positive and negative attributes of John Adams as a suitor for young Abigail Smith. An answer key has been provided with some possible answers that your child may list — she may not include all of the details listed but ought to be able to think of at least 2-3 positive and 2-3 negative qualities. For the question, "Why do you think the choice of a husband was so important to young women and their families in the colonial era?" your child may mention that women were dependent on their husbands for economic survival and had no legal identity outside of that of their husbands (p. 10). Also, a good match would ensure that a woman would have a secure and comfortable future.
Answer Key