You will be amazed at how eagerly your students will take to this five paragraph essay lesson. I guarantee that they will beg to write (a little show and tell never hurts either!).
Organizing thoughts in expository writing (sometimes referred to as "explanatory writing") is difficult for children. Often they do not even understand that there is a different way to read these types of texts, let alone write them.
The five paragraph essay is a tool to aid beginning writers who are learning how to use transitions, opening, and closing paragraphs.
However, I also have used it for my middle school son and it made a world of difference for him.
He finally understood what it means to organize an essay. For kids who see things in black and white, this lesson is a life saver.
This sample five paragraph essay lesson plan shows the students how to keep details together, write effective opening and closing paragraphs, and use transition words.
Crinkle crinkle! That's the sound of my All About Me bag opening. In my bag, I have three things: a flower, a map and a book. Each one of these things tells something special about me. Ready?
First, I have a flower. This flower is a daisy because that is my favorite type of flower. My mom always grows daisies out front in the summer. My dog likes them too, but he eats them and makes my mom really mad.
I also have a map in my bag. I have been to many different places in the world, like Germany and the Bahamas. My favorite place to go though, was Florida. I found a shark tooth on the beach!
Finally, I have a book. I love to read - my mom says I am voracious with books. Right now I am reading A-Z Mysteries. I didn't even know I would like mysteries until I started this series. I think most kids in second grade would love this series.
Of course there are lots of other things that are important about me, but those are my favorite ones. Now I would love to know more about you. Do you have three things you can share? I can't wait to read about you!
This student used a five paragraph essay outline, included transition words, had effective opening and closing sentences, utilized new vocabulary and learned about how colons help writers to list information.
Whew! That's a lot for an 8 year old…or is it?
Send home a note to parents attached to a paper bag.
Note: Get your own bag ready with three things. You will need it to do a guided writing experience with the students on Day One.
Download these graphic organizers with Five Paragraph Essay Writing (they follow the Stoplight Writing Method)
Day One: Introduce Paragraph Writing.
Take the students to your writing area, and tell them you brought your own bag to share with them.
Begin by writing an introduction (in GREEN if you are using Stoplight Writing) that will hook the readers.
When you get to the line: "In my bag, I have three things:" be sure to point out the use of the colon and how it designates a list. The students will write their supporting details in the same order as the list.
Open your bag with a flourish. The bag is the introduction. The
objects inside are the details, or body of the essay.
You are showing them the GREEN.
After this, you are ready to start the first YELLOW.
Take out the first object.
This is the topic sentence for the first paragraph.
Using RED, write two supporting sentences that go with the object. These are the details.
Follow the same procedure for writing the third and fourth paragraphs.
When you are ready for the closing paragraph, close up the bag dramatically and tell the students that since the bag is closed, you cannot write anything more about what is inside the bag.
This is a key concept for students to understand about how details are not found in the opening and closing paragraphs in an essay.
The closing paragraph is about
wrapping it all up effectively, like a present. I like to call this a
You should also find some time to do a mini-lesson on Transition Words. Transition words are like bridges in a five paragraph essay, and the students will need guidance to anchor this process.
Day Two: Guided Writing
This is a Guided Writing experience, and students will need their bags.
You will write a five paragraph essay with the students, leaving blanks for them to fill in. I like to give the kids Green, Yellow and Red strips of paper to write on.
This will provide a kinesthetic writing experience for them. Older students can do it with an outline such as this one, or use markers to underline as they write.
Here's how it can look:
you want to know some secret things about me? In my bag, I have three
things: _________, __________, __________. Each one of these tells
something special about me.
For older students,
you can allow them more choice with words and sentence structure.
Younger kids need more teacher guidance, and just learning about using a
colon as an organizational tool is enough.
Next, instruct the
students to take out their first listed object and place it on their
desk. They will write one Yellow sentence about the object, such as:
First, I brought a ___________.
the students will write two Red sentences, which tell more about the
Yellow sentence. Again, guide the writing of the sentences, but this
time, instead of copying from you, they will need to add two of their
own sentences. Guide them with questions such as, "Where did you get
this?" "Who gave it to you?" "Is it part of a collection?" "How does
this make you feel?"
Day Three: Review and Guided Writing
Begin Day Three by reviewing
yesterday's lesson. Have the students read what they wrote, taking out
their first object as they read about it, and get ready for the next
You will follow the same procedure for their bags as you did for Day Two. For each object, take it out of the bag, write a Yellow sentence, write two Red (detail) sentences, and then put it down.
You can end Day Three here if you are short on time, or move on to Day Four, the closing paragraph.
Day Four: Finishing Up
Now it is time to write the closing paragraph of your Five Paragraph Essay. This will be in Green.
After the students review what they have written so far and taken the
objects out of their bags, instruct them to put them back into their
bags and close them up.
Remind the students that by closing
the bags they are showing that there will be no more sentences about the
objects - we will not be mixing up details with the opening and closing
Go back to the first sentence, "Do you want to know some secret things about me?"
Talk with the kids about how that sentence can be re-worded, such as "Now my three things aren't really a secret!" or "Sigh…that's the end of my secrets!"
Explain that these are
"Circle Sentences," when sentences repeat the same idea but use
different words. Give them some choices of sentences to write, or let
them do their own if they are able.
And there it is - Stoplight Writing. It is definitely a long process, but it is excellent explicit teaching.