Teaching How to Write a Five Paragraph Essay

Having already taught your students how to write a FIVE SENTENCE COMPARISON PARAGRAPH you have the base materials required to construct a Five Paragraph Essay Outline.

While the Five Paragraph Essay is far from the best form for students to express their ideas, the organizational skills learned while writing a five paragraph essay will built the essential foundation required for their future progress.

Though we will move quickly from how to write a five paragraph essay to writing a more organic multi-paragraphed essay, all teachers must have a handle on how to teach the fundamental skills.


Minds On

Instruct students to sit in groups of five and provide them with the following quotation, cut up into the five individual sentences:

Summer is better than winter because it offers comfort and freedom.  In the summer people wear shorts and sandals which allow their skin to breath, taking in the fresh air while being warmed by the afternoon sun.  Not only that but the days are longer offering time to swim in neighbourhood pools, bike along wooded paths, and sit outside in the shade of large oak trees reading a new book.  Also, summer brings the Warped Tour music festival, Ribfests, and community BBQs that end in firework displays that turn the night sky red, green, and orange.  During the summer one is granted the opportunity to explore in comfort, from the moment the sun rises until the sun sets fifteen hours later.

Instruct students that they will be rebuilding the paragraph in the most logical manner.

Each group member will then be required to write a justification for why they placed their sentence in the order they did.  Ideally they will come up with some of the following reasons:

  • The first sentence offers a clear opinion, setting up the rest of the paragraph
  • The third and fourth sentences can not be second due to their transitional words, “not only that”, and “also”.
  • the final sentence rephrases the opening opinion while offering a transition into the first body paragraph.
  • The second sentence adds a deeper explanation for the stated opinion, while being free from transitional words, and also being connected to the final sentence’s transition


WhatBinderDotCom - Essay Planning Sheet

Once students have explored the introductory paragraph, provide them with the ESSAY PLANNING SHEET (PDF provided in the Resource section at the bottom of this page).

Students will fill out as much of this sheet as possible, based on their current paragraph.  They will start by addressing the thesis of the piece.

Teaching how to Write a Thesis

A strong Thesis has two main parts, the theme the essay will be addressing, and the specific focus that the writer will use to hone their ideas.

You can teach students that the theme is their main thought, and the focus is why someone should care about it.  For example, if you just said, “Summer is better than winter?” why would anyone care about what you had to say.  It fails the “So what?” test.

“Summer is better than winter.”

“So what?”


If you can answer “So what?” then you will most likely have a solid foundation for an argument.

“Summer is better than winter.”

“So what?”

“So, you have more comfort and freedom.”

“Ohh, o.k.”

Filling out the Essay Outline Sheet

Students should have the following information based on the paragraph.

ESSAY THEME: Summer is better than Winter.

FOCUS: Summer offers more comfort and freedom.

THESIS: Summer is better than Winter because it offers more comfort and freedom.

TOPIC 1: Clothing options

SUBTOPIC 1: Wearing shorts and sandals

SUBTOPIC 2: Loose clothing allows comfort outside

SUBTOPIC 3 (Optional):

TOPIC 2: The days are longer

SUBTOPIC 1: More time for friends (swimming)

SUBTOPIC 2: More time for solitary activities (reading)

SUBTOPIC 3 (Optional): More time for exercise (biking)

TOPIC 3: More festivals

SUBTOPIC 1: Music festivals (Warped Tour)

SUBTOPIC 2: Food Festivals (Rib Fests)

SUBTOPIC 3 (Optional): Community events (Fireworks)

Once students have filled out the essay outline sheet based on the information provided from the exemplar paragraph, they should begin filling out the “evidence” column.  They should have at least one SPECIFIC DETAIL per subtopic.

For example:

Warped Tour, 2019 – Cleveland Ohio – June 8th (https://vanswarpedtour.com/)

At this stage it’s more important that they’ve recorded their evidence, and know where it’s from, rather than being focused on the correct MLA or APA way to embed and cite their examples.  After all, this is just an outline.

Personal Devices

This is a great opportunity for students to use their personal devices to research specific details.  You may want to take five minutes to teach a mini-lesson on specific vs. vague details.

Once students have completed their outline, and recorded specific details you can move on to having them write a body paragraph.

Writing a Body Paragraph

Explain to your students that a FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY is… FIVE PARAGRAPHS.  I know this will come as a shock to them, but they may wonder what each of the paragraphs are.   Of course, the five paragraphs are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Topic 1
  3. Topic 2
  4. Topic 3
  5. Conclusion

You can explain to students that the opening paragraph they assembled acts as the introduction paragraph, and that each of the three body paragraphs will explore one of the three topics it set out.

You can then provide them with an example of a body paragraph, demonstrating how each subtopic and its supporting evidence, can be integrated to form a coherent paragraph.  Each subtopic should have two or three clear sentences devoted to it.

During the summer months there are far more festivals that provide opportunities for self-expression, and entertainment.  Music festivals take place in large fields where stages have to be quickly assembled and disassembled as the festival moves across the country.  This rapid construction, and comfortable gathering place for people to stand outside can only be accomplished during the summer.  For the comfort of both fans and musicians, The Warped Tour hosts its three shows between “June 8th [in] Cleveland, OH” and “July 20 [in] Mountain View, CA”.  On top of music festivals, summer is also when food festivals attract large crowds.  As they, too, tour from city to city large open air spaces must be free from snow and ice to attract those seeking the finest BBQ their country has to offer.  In Toronto, Canada “Gates open June 28th” for “Toronto Ribfest”.  Providing an opportunity for friends and family to eat together long into the night before the “9:03pm sunset” is something that winter can not match.  Finally, community events such as large firework displays “along the beach, celebrating the birth of [the] nation” can only be appreciated during the warmer months.  Volleyball, picnics, swimming, and bright explosions high in the sky are only ever combined when the water is free from ice, and the air free from snow.  Though music festivals can be expensive, bands often offer free shows during food festivals and community events, allowing those on a budget to fully experience and enjoy everything that summer offers.

Highlight that this paragraph is approximately 250 WORDS.  Most five paragraph essays are given a 1000 WORDS word count.  This will fit that model:

  • Introduction – 125 Words
  • Body Paragraph 1 – 250 Words
  • Body Paragraph 2 – 250 Words
  • Body Paragraph 3 – 250 Words
  • Conclusion – 125 Words

Next, ensure they understand that each SUBTOPIC had at least two or three sentences devoted to it, before the paragraph concluded with a transitional and summarizing sentence.

They should also note that each of the subtopics is supported with at least one quotation.

Releasing Responsibility

Allow students to choose either TOPIC 1 or TOPIC 2 to develop as their own body paragraph.

If possible, assign different topics to different groups, so that you have at least one group working on TOPIC 1 and one group working on TOPIC 2.

After twenty minutes, have each group write their paragraph on chart paper, and display them in your class.  You will now have an IntroductionBody Paragraph 1Body Paragraph 2, and a Body Paragraph 3.


To conclude the lesson, and the essay, explain to students that a conclusion should rewrite the information from the introduction, while hammering home any last points they want the reader to take away.

By now, students have a mostly-complete five paragraph essay in front of them.  They should now write the concluding paragraph on a half-sheet of paper, and hand it in as an Exit Card before they leave for the day.


Essay Outline Sheet – WhatBinderDotCom.pdf

What’s Next?

Now that students know how to write a FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY we will quickly show them why no one actually writes essays that way, and why – going forward – they should avoid writing essays like that as well.

They will learn that a MULTI-PARAGRAPHED ESSAY is just as easy to write, and can be written with the same organizational sheets.  This one step will take their work from being ready for the classroom, to being ready for the world at large.

Navigate the Essay Unit

One thought on “Teaching How to Write a Five Paragraph Essay

  1. Carmen says:

    This is super helpful; a life-saver for me, actually. I am a grade one teacher tossed into grade seven this year (due to making class sizes smaller because of COVID) Thank you so much for posting your knowledge free-of-charge for people like me to access freely! Much appreciated!


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