Teaching My Baby To Read

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How to Write A Five Paragraph Essay

Bruce(6) was home from school today with a nasty cough, but he wasn’t too sick to boss me around. 🙂 He came into the kitchen while I was making lunch and told me that we were going to do a five paragraph writing contest. He told me that a paragraph has five sentences with periods in it, and that I better get busy. The next twenty minutes were spent with us both writing and trying to protect our papers from Jenna(27m) and her crayons. Here is a sample of what Bruce produced. He did indeed write five paragraphs worth of material, although each paragraph was on a different topic:

Since I was being forced into an impromptu writing test, I decided that I’d whip something up that would be didactic. So after Bruce read me his composition I showed him my outline of how I crafted a five paragraph essay. Mostly this lesson went straight over his head, but at least the idea has been planted that there is an organizational strategy to writing a five paragraph essay.

Please note that this is not my best work, and that I struggled a bit with the D’nealian script. I’m also a naturally horrible speller, so have fun catching my mistakes!

My color-coded outline:

My Essay: I’ve color-coded some of the sentences in case you want to use this as an example when teaching your own children how to write essays.

The basic formula for writing a perfectly serviceable (but boring) five paragraph essay is as follows:

1) Introduction Paragraph.

Thesis statement


Reason #2

Reason #3

Restate thesis in new way


2) Second Paragraph

Reason #1 statement

Supporting detail 1.1

Supporting detail 1.2

Supporting detail 1.3


3) Third Paragraph

Reason #2 statement

Supporting detail 2.1

Supporting detail 2.2

Supporting detail 2.3


4) Fourth Paragraph

Reason #3 statement

Supporting detail 3.1

Supporting detail 3.2

Supporting detail 3.3


5) Conclusion Paragraph

Restate thesis statement in new way

Restate reason #1

Restate reason #2

Restate reason #3

Final conclusion sentence

Right now I am pretty happy that Bruce likes to write at all. As a first grader, he is focusing on putting down thoughts to paper and perfecting his handwriting and spelling. But some day when he is ready, maybe the summer before fourth grade, I’m going to teach him how to bang out a five paragraph essay in his sleep. It is a skill that will serve him well on standardized tests in the future.


  1. Claire H. says:

    This is where I really disagree philosophically with public school writing pedagogy. To me, it seems like schools today are pushing quantity over quality. I strongly believe the focus in the elementary grades should be getting kids to write a few really high-quality sentences. Build a solid foundation, and there will be plenty of time to write full essays in middle school.

    I went to tour a local 3rd grade classroom that proudly displayed a bunch of 5 paragraph essays last year. The students had written a couple of pages each- but the writing STANK. The papers had atrocious spelling and grammar, lots of sentence fragments and run-ons, little variety in sentence structure, and many of them lacked unity and coherence. I truly do not understand why the teacher so clearly valued quantity of output over quality.

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Two words: STANDARDIZED TESTING!!! Even back in our day you had to be able to bang out a five paragraph essay on the AP and SAT II tests. Now it’s even more pervasive. Posting final draft work that is full of errors however, is not something that I ever did, except when I taught in Ravenswood and the kids were still learning English.

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