Five Paragraph Essays

There’s nothing magical about five paragraph essays, either in the length or in the exact structure, but they are an excellent start to learning to write more developed essays for middle-schoolers and above.

Before you begin teaching the five paragraph essay, you’ll want to give your student lots of practice with book reports, one paragraph summaries, and short fact based papers.  Before they begin writing, they can also outline their thoughts in preparation for the essay.  I created a simple form for beginners to fill in.  Click here if you’d like this printable.

Structure of A Five Paragraph Essay

The structure of a five paragraph essay is:

I. Introduction

A. The main theme of the paper
B.  Point one
C. Point two
D. Point three
E. Transition sentence

II. Point one

A. Supporting point
B. Supporting point
C. Supporting point
D. Transition sentence

III. Point Two

A. Supporting point
B. Supporting point
C. Supporting point
D. Transition sentence

IV. Point three

A. Supporting point
B. Supporting point
C. Supporting point
D. Transition sentence

V. Conclusion

A. Why your ideas about the subject are correct
B. What you proved in the previous paragraphs
C. A summary of your conclusions.

Why Everyone Should Learn to Write A Five Paragraph Essay

The reason five paragraph essays are so great for developing writers is because of the high level of structure.  You are told exactly what goes where and in which order to put it.  As a student just beginning that structure is absolutely necessary.  It is true that before you can break the rules you have to understand them well and that is what the five paragraph essay does – it gives a great foundation for the rules so that students become comfortable with the rules and feel confident in their writing.

Basically there are five paragraphs and each paragraph has four to five sentences.  When you first start give your student a defined subject, perhaps something you are studying in history or science or something that they are interested in outside of their studies.  Then make an outline with them, in the order above.

An Example of A Five Paragraph Essay

My son’s first five paragraph essay was on “Mistakes My Parents Make That I Will Not.”  We purposely kept it light and fun since this was an intimidating writing project to begin with.

I helped him brainstorm and come up with the ideas for each supporting point of his paper.  We wrote out the outline together and then he turned each part of the outline into a complete sentence, keeping it in the order of the outline.  The ideas and writing are all his, with guidance from me.  The following essay is his first, written when he was 12.  It is certainly not polished and we have some logic gaps, but it’s a great first effort.  He will write many more essays and polish his technique over the years.

A 12-year-old’s First Five Paragraph Essay

Mistakes My Parents Make That I Will Not
My parents make a lot of mistakes that I will not. Parents leave their kids to make dinner, make them write five paragraph essays, and make kids wait until they are sixteen to drive a car. If your parents don’t make you do any of that, you do not have to keep reading.
Parents should not leave their kids to make dinner because they cannot always handle it. Sometimes kids don’t know what they are doing. Sometimes the dinner does not turn out good. Usually the kids give up, or the parents take over anyway.

Parents should not make kids write five paragraph essays. Most of the time kids are sulky and drag it out. Also parents keep bugging them and make them sulkier. Five paragraph essays are useless anyway and cause contention for no reason.

Parents should not make their kids wait until they are sixteen to drive a car. Most kids want to drive sooner. Some kids are capable of driving sooner. Parents would not have to drive their kids everywhere.

I know I will not make these mistakes when I grow up. My kids will have dinner served to them every night or maybe they will help with dinner, but they won’t have to do it all. My kids will not have to do very much writing at all unless they want to. I will let my kids drive as soon as they can reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel. The world will be nicer if parents would just let kids do what they want.

4 thoughts on “Five Paragraph Essays”

  1. I had a great teacher in 10th grade who really taught me the 5 paragraph essay well. That skill got me through the rest of high school and college and is something I still use.

    Once you can write a good 5 paragraph essay shorter answers or longer reports are a breeze.

  2. As a teacher, I start teaching a 3-paragraph essay as early as the 3rd grade. It follows this same format and I have found this is the easiest way to teach students to write paragraphs.

    1. I saw a teacher’s post not long ago on how to teach 5 paragraph essays to young elementary students. I was blown away. I love it because the sooner kids learn the formula the more comfortable they are. By the time they have enough knowledge and maturity to have actual ideas of their own they can smoothly transition to a bit more fluidity in their writing. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I teach what’s called “MEAL” paragraphs to middle school kids, which are organized Main idea, Evidence, Analysis, Link instead of support, support, support.

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