Five-Paragraph Essay writing is a pizza pie!

Wait, that's not right? I meant slice of pie. Cross that out! The five-paragraph essay is a piece of cake. Okay, that's got it. Yes, the metaphor is correct, but it's not true.

The five-paragraph composition can be learned easily enough, but it does take practice. Lots of practice over a long period of time, but learning this format will serve a person throughout all of his or her adult life.

Parents, this is a life skill I'm talking about here, not just a few facts that will help your child pass some "jump through the hoop" test that gets you in to college. Everyone needs to be able to write a competent essay on a subject. 

To read my guest blog for a No Tears Approach to Writing,  visit the Little Lovies blog. 

Later, at the end of this end of this page I'll provide a link to an editing service that will help you support your child's writing efforts. 

The Five-Paragraph Essay in Outline Form

I.              Paragraph 1 – The Introduction

        a.    Snazzy opening sentence that catches the reader’s attention

        b.    The final sentence in the introductory paragraph will be the thesis statement

II.            Paragraph 2 – The first of three supporting details

        a.    The first sentence will state the first reason what you believe your thesis statement is true.

        b.    The second, third, fourth, and perhaps fifth sentences will give anecdotal (personal or familial) or factual evidence explaining why you believe this detail supports your thesis.

        c.    The final sentence in this paragraph summarizes your information and transitions into the next detail.

III.           Paragraph 3 – The second of three supporting details

       a.    The first sentence will state your second reason for why you believe your thesis is true.

       b.    The following two, three, or four sentences again will give anecdotal or factual information supporting your thesis.

       c.    The final sentence in this paragraph summarizes this information and transitions into the next paragraph.

IV.          Paragraph 4  contains the third of the three supporting details

       a.    Again, the first sentence will state your third reason for why you believe your thesis is true.

       b.    Again, the second, third, and fourth sentences will provide anecdotal or factual information to support your thesis statement.

       c.    The final sentence in this paragraph summarizes this paragraph.

V.            Paragraph 5 – The exciting concluding statement

       a.    In the first sentence you will tell your audience that you are concluding your argument or defense of your thesis statement.

       b.    In the second, third, and fourth sentences, you will summarize briefly all the evidence that you have presented.

       c.    The final sentence is a restatement of your thesis statement in your introductory paragraph.

The Thesis Statement 

Every five-paragraph essay has to have a thesis statement. A thesis statement tells the reader what the purpose of the essay/composition/paper is.

A basic, no frills thesis can be a formal sentence stating three adjectives that describe the main character in a book like Tom Sawyer. Here's an example:

Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,  was a courageous, honest, and persuasive adolescent. 


Then, your second, third, and fourth paragraphs will explain and give examples from the book on the character traits of courage, honesty, and persuasiveness, respectively.

Your final paragraph will restate your thesis statement in a somewhat different, yet recognizable format as your introductory paragraph. For example, 


Photo by Jodi Sharp

All throughout Tom's adventures in Mark Twain's book, he proves that he has courage, is honest, and displays comical persuasiveness. 

Anecdotal and Factual Evidence

An anecdote is a story from life that is used to support an argument. In keeping with the Tom Sawyer five-paragraph essay, you may give an example of

  • how your grandfather showed courage by testifying in a courtroom when he was younger.
  • or how you stood up to a bully when you saw a friend of yours being picked on
  • or how you admitted to your parents that you accidentally broke the cookie jar
  • or how you talked your friends into dressing up as the Power Puff girls on Halloween

Factual evidence comes from newspapers, magazines, a web page, an encyclopedia article, or a textbook. It would read something like this:

  • In the Wall Street Journal, an article about investments showed that the stock market rose more than 200 percent in the past...
  • On You Tube, there are more subscribers to humorous sites than political ones.
  • In the World Book Encyclopedia , the article about Mark Twain stated that he spent his boyhood in Missouri, near the Mississippi River.

Practice makes Perfect

Writing takes practice, so getting used to the format early will make it easier to get it right after a few years. Ideally, your child will begin practicing a four-paragraph essay in the 7th and 8th grades and work up to the five-paragraph essay by the 9th grade. She will continue to write variations of this essay throughout high school. 

As she grows more experienced, she will experiment with more imaginative and descriptive techniques that will reflect her own style and voice so that her compositions no longer appear formulaic as the above outline appears. 

What's Next? - Editing and Revising

Throughout my teaching career, I heard comments from parents and others that they don't help their children with their writing because they don't feel "smart enough" to do so.

And at some level, they are right, but they also are wrong.

Every parent can help a child to write more clearly. There are, however, techniques that can improve that process. For example, only correct one or two items before you send them off to rewrite.

For more advanced writers, I am offering a free (for a limited-time only) editing and revision service.

I am trying to build up my editing pages on this website, and I cannot write like a fourth grader or a seventh grader or a sophomore.

Therefore, when your child writes a composition or five-paragraph essay, please cut and paste it in the box below. I will edit it and make revision suggestions (all anonymously).

Then, I will post it on its own page for other parents to use as a guide. I believe it will be a great service to all parents who want to help their children improve their writing.

Share Your Teenager's Writing

Do you want to help your teenager write better, but can't find a trustworthy, economical service? I have found no free editing or revision service on the web either.Therefore, in the box below, cut and paste an essay of no more than 300 words (five paragraphs)and click SUBMIT. I will personally review her writing sample and make comments on her strengths and areas needed for improvement.Your teenager's name will be kept confidential.

Newest Page: How to write a persuasive essay. 

Click the link to learn more about writing and the five-paragraph essay.

Click on this link to learn more tips for parents. 





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