Writer’s Workshop Wednesday: The Five Paragraph Essay

I have taught the basic five paragraph essay for years. It always surprises me when students get so worried and worked up about a basic essay because if you know the organization of the essay, there’s really nothing to fear.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a piece of writing consisting of five paragraphs that explains a topic, idea, opinion, or belief and provides some evidence to support that idea or belief.

There are three main parts of the essay: the intro, the body, and the conclusion. Each part has a specific job within the essay. I once had a teacher explain it to me this way:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

Tell them.

Tell them what you told them.

The Intro–“Tell them what you’re going to tell them.”

The first paragraph of your essay will “Tell them what you’re going to tell them.” In the intro, you introduce your topic–whatever it is–in a way that connects to your reader. You also give your thesis statement which is a one sentence statement that literally tells what your essay is going to be about.

The Body–“Tell them.”

The three body paragraphs develop the idea you presented in your thesis. I like to use a three part structure in my thesis that then can be outlined in my body. For example, “Anyone can run a marathon if they train correctly, recover properly, and fuel strategically.”

My thesis statement outlines what my body paragraphs will be about: paragraph one–training correctly; paragraph two–recovering properly; paragraph three–fueling strategically. I only include facts and information that support those ideas within the proper paragraph. I don’t add additional information that doesn’t prove my point

The Conclusion–“Tell them what you told them.”

The conclusion summarizes everything you stated in the body, restates your thesis in a different way, and leaves the reader with one last final takeaway. Ask yourself, “what is the one thing my essay is about?” and makes sure your reader comes away with that one thing.

If you want to learn more, I have an entire ebook on the five paragraph essay available. I give step-by-step instructions for how to write your best essay, with examples, and even a revision checklist. (Teachers, I also include a rubric for grading!) Check out The Five Paragraph Essay ebook and nail your next essay!


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