The five-paragraph essay provides a strong, well-structured text. What’s more? It’s easy to compose. All you need is a good organizer and an example.
Ms. Sneed Grades Her Kids’ Paragraphs
As our favorite fourth grade teacher graded her class’s latest paragraphs, she let out a satisfied sigh. First they learned paragraph structure. Then they learned to elaborate. Additionally, they learned to vary sentences and use transitions. Now they were ready to scaffold from one paragraph to the five-paragraph essay.
The Five-Paragraph Essay Prompt
Ms. Sneed turned and opened her laptop. With just a few clicks, she found it. Her favorite prompt, You Should Try It, asked kids to persuade others to try an activity – in five paragraphs.
The Five-Paragraph Essay – Paragraph by Paragraph
The following Monday, Ms. Sneed stood in front of her class. “Today,” she said, “you will learn how to write a five-paragraph essay.”
Several kids looked a little unsure, but their teacher continued. “For now, I’ll take you through an example. That should ease your concerns.”
Ms. Sneed projected a sample. “The first paragraph, or introduction, includes a thesis statement and supportive factual reasons.”
With the mention of a new term, thesis statement, more kids looked uncomfortable. Some squirmed in their seats.
“Now I know the term thesis statement is new, but no worries! You know it as a topic sentence. However, the thesis is the main idea of a multi-paragraph composition.”
The teacher read the paragraph aloud. “Can anyone pick out the thesis for this persuasive essay?” she asked.
One student slowly raised his hand. “Wouldn’t you like to try water skiing?”
“Yes! Although it’s written as a question, this sentence offers an opinion. Furthermore, the entire essay supports this thesis. Can you find the author’s three supporting reasons?”
Before too long, the class had established the supporting details too: improving health, impressing friends, and teaching them to ski.
“Now let’s look at the second paragraph,” Ms. Sneed said.
“You identified one of the main details as health. As you can see, this paragraph expands on that reason.”
“That’s just what we were doing with one paragraph,” piped up a girl in the back row.
“Um-hm. True. But writing in five paragraphs gives you more room to elaborate.”
The kids seemed to relax in their seats. This wasn’t so bad after all.
With no further ado, she pulled up the third paragraph. “See, paragraph #3 discusses the second main supportive detail.”
After they read the paragraph aloud, Ms. Sneed asked, “Who can find the topic sentence of this paragraph?”
“Isn’t it the first sentence?” said a boy with purple glasses.
Ms. Sneed nodded. “Easy peasy. The main idea of this paragraph, as we said before, is the second reason.”
For the fourth paragraph, Ms. Sneed tried a new tactic. “Okay, think-pair-share! Find the the topic sentences and smaller details that support it.” Her students knew what this meant. Immediately, they turned to their seat partners and began to discuss.
After a few minutes, groups began to share:
“The first sentence is the topic sentence again,” said the first spokesperson.
“And the details are the steps in teaching,” said the second.
“Ahh, a sequence paragraph inside a five-paragraph persuasive essay,” Ms. Sneed remarked. That famous teacher smile spread across her face.
“Here we have the final paragraph, or conclusion,” the teacher continued.
After she read the paragraph aloud, Ms. Sneed pointed out the restated thesis statement and details. “It’s a repeat of the first paragraph in different words.”
Quickly, strode toward the board. She picked up a marker and sketched a hamburger with three patties. “Does this look familiar?”
Everyone smiled and nodded. Ms. Sneed’s favorite analogy for an informative paragraph!
“We just used this again,” their teacher said. “The top bun is the first paragraph. It introduces the main idea with a thesis statement and supporting details. The first hamburger patty explores the first detail; the second, the second; and the third, the third! Finally, the bottom bun wraps it all up with a restatement of the thesis and details.”
“It’s just a giant version of the paragraph,” said a small girl in the front corner.
“Yep,” replied Ms. Sneed. “Not hard at all – if you know what you’re doing.”
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.