Five Paragraph Essay Example Fourth Grade

When I look back to my first experience teaching five paragraph essays to fifth graders, I can remember how terribly unprepared I felt. I knew that the five paragraph essay format was what my students needed to help them pass our state’s writing assessment but I had no idea where to start. I researched the few grade-appropriate essays I could find online (these were the days before Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers) and determined that there was a structure to follow. Every essay followed the same basic structure. I taught the structure to my students and they did well. I have been teaching five paragraph essay structure and everything that goes with it for a lot of years now. I hope that after you read this blog post, you will have a good understanding of how to teach and grade five paragraph essays.

Start with Paragraphs

We always start with simple paragraphs. Yes, this is basic, but if your students cannot write excellent paragraphs, their five paragraph essays will be train wrecks. Trust me! We spend a while cementing paragraph structure:

Topic Sentence

Detail #1

Detail #2

Detail #3

Closing Sentence

I give students topics, they come up with their own topics, we write together, they write with a partner or independently, the more variety, the better. We have fun with simple paragraphs. Then, it’s time to move on to organization.

Organize and Write the Body Paragraphs

Please refer to my five paragraph essay organizer below. The three body paragraphs are absolutely crucial to the success of the five paragraph essay. Some teachers have trouble teaching the structure of five paragraph essays because they start with the introduction paragraph. Always teach the body paragraphs first! The body paragraphs are where the bulk of students’ ideas will be written AND the topics of the body paragraphs need to be set for students to write a thesis sentence. So, once your students have planned out their three body paragraphs, it’s time to write them out on paper. I had a teacher say to me once, “What’s the point of just writing parts of the essay? They need to write the entire five paragraphs to get all of the practice they need.” I understand that point. However, think of it as building a house. Should you test out the foundation and make sure it’s sound and sturdy before building on top of it? Absolutely! That’s what we’re doing here. The three body paragraphs are the foundation of the essay. Ask students to write out their three body paragraphs just like they have practiced…Topic sentence…Detail 1…Detail 2…Detail 3…Closing Sentence. I “ooooh and aaaah” over their three paragraphs. Students are on their way to five paragraph essays, so be sure to build their confidence.

Teach the Introduction Paragraph

I have to say, this is my favorite paragraph to teach. The introduction paragraph is what draws readers into the essay and makes them want to read more. We start with what I call a “hook.” The hook captures the readers’ attention and can come in many forms: asking a question, making a bold statement, sharing a memory, etc. After the hook, I ask students to add a sentence or two of applicable commentary about the hook or about the prompt in general. Finally, we add the thesis sentence. The thesis sentence always follows the same formula: Restate the prompt, topic 1, topic 2, and topic 3. That’s all you need to write an excellent introduction paragraph! I do suggest having students write the introduction paragraph plus body paragraphs a couple of times before teaching the closing paragraph.

Teach the Closing Paragraph

In the conclusion paragraph, we mainly focus on restating the thesis and including an engaging closing thought. With my students, I use the analogy of a gift. The introduction paragraph and body paragraphs are the gift and the conclusion paragraph is the ribbon that ties everything together and finishes the package. When you talk about restating the thesis sentence, tell students that they need to make it sound different enough from their original thesis sentence to save their readers from boredom. Who wants to read the same thing twice? No one! Students can change up the format and wording a bit to make it fresh. I enjoy teaching the closing thought because it’s so open to however students want to create it. Ways to write the closing thought: ask a question, personal statement, call to action, or even a quote. I especially like reading the essays in which a quote is used as a closing thought or a powerful statement is used.

Example of a full five paragraph essay:

Let’s Talk About Color-Coding!

Who doesn’t like to color? This is coloring with a purpose!

Training your students to color-code their paragraphs and essays will make grading so much easier and will provide reminders and reinforcements for students. When students color-code their writing, they must think about the parts of their paragraphs, like topic sentences, details, and the closing sentence. They will be able to see if they are missing something or if they’ve written something out of order. Color-coding is a wonderful help for the teacher because you can skim to ensure that all parts of your students’ paragraphs and essays are present. Also, when you are grading, you can quickly scan the paragraphs and essays. Trust me, you will develop a quick essay-grading ability. I start color-coding with my students at the very beginning when they are working on simple paragraphs. I add the additional elements of the color-code as we progress through our five paragraph essays. This is the code that I use:

Let’s Talk About Grading Five Paragraph Essays!

Imagine a lonely, stressed teacher grading five paragraph essays on the couch while her husband is working the night shift. That was me! Seriously, guys, I would spend about ten minutes per essay. I marked every little error, I made notes for improvement and notes of encouragement. I reworked their incorrect structure. Those papers were full of marks. On Monday, I proudly brought back the essays and asked students to look over them and learn what they needed to fix for next time. You can guess what happened… there were lots of graded essays in the trashcan at the end of the day.

I decided that my grading practices had to change. I needed my weekends back and my students needed to find their own errors! This is my best advice:

  • STOP correcting every error! Your students are not benefiting from marks all over their writing. They need to find those errors themselves so that they will remember their mistakes and change their writing habits.
  • Do a quick scan of each student’s writing as soon as it’s turned in to you. If there are major problems with a student’s writing, call him/her over individually and show him/her what needs to be fixed or put the student with a competent peer editor who will help them fix their mistakes. If you have several students who are struggling with a skill, like closing sentences, do a mini-lesson on this topic. You can do a mini-lesson with a small group. However, I prefer doing mini-lessons with the entire class. The kids who need help will get it and the rest of your class will receive a refresher.
  • It’s ok if there are some small spelling/grammar mistakes. If the errors are few and they don’t take away from the meaning/flow of the essay, I don’t worry about them. Our students are still learning. Even your brightest star writer will have a few spelling/grammar mistakes from time to time. Don’t discourage students from writing because of some small errors. Students who receive papers back with markings all over them don’t think, “Oh boy, my teacher has made it so easy for me to make all of these corrections.” They are thinking, “What’s the point in writing? I must be a terrible writer. Look at all of these mistakes.” If your students are taking a standardized writing assessment, the structure and flow of their essays will be worth much more than perfect spelling.

Need more help?

I created this five paragraph essay instructional unit for teachers who are new to teaching five paragraph essays OR just need all of the materials in one place. “Teacher Talk” pages will guide you through the unit and this unit contains all materials needed to help students plan, organize, and write amazing five paragraph essays! Click here to check it out:

I have a freebie for you! Click on the image below to reach the sign up page. You’ll receive three original prompts with five paragraph essay organizers AND two lined final draft pages!

Once your students are good essay writers…

These task cards will help your students stay sharp on their five paragraph essay knowledge. Students will review hooks (attention-getters), thesis sentences, body paragraphs, topic sentences, closings, and more. Each card contains a unique writing example!

I suggest using these task cards as a quiz/test, scoot game, individual review, or cooperative group activity.

Click on the image to view these task cards:

Filed Under: Writing

How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay

How To Teach The Five Paragraph Essayis for you if your answer is "yes" to any of the questions below.
  1. Would you like to show your students how to write a strong five-paragraph essay to a timed prompt, and have them complete it in about an hour?
  2. Would you like to show your students a simple format that will help them write essays from any writing domain?
  3. Would you like your students to be able to write exciting introductions and conclusions?
  4. Would you like a detailed lesson plan that will show you, step-by-step, how to teach the five-paragraph essay?


How To Teach The Five-Paragraph Essaycontains a step-by-step plan for teaching the five-paragraph essay. Teachers will be able to show their students how a simple outline will help students master one of the most important skills a student can acquire.

The format of this book leaves nothing to chance. The teacher is given everything needed to help students master essay writing. Students will be able to organize their ideas, then format and write a five-paragraph essay in about an hour. Every student will be prepared for any class, district, or state writing test.



List of Steps

See the entire process at a glance. The teacher will receive a list of steps on one page to help see the "big picture".

Pacing Chart

How long will it take to teach your class to write the five-paragraph essay? It all depends on the age and ability level of your students. Use this pacing chart to help keep your class on track. Feel free to slow down or speed up as needed. Following the steps on the pacing chart will keep your class moving through the process at a pace that is just right.

Detailed Lesson Plan

You will receive a detailed explanation of each step. Use the detailed lesson plan to learn how to teach the five-paragraph essay. Once you feel comfortable with each step, the pacing chart is all you will need. You will only need to use the detailed lesson plan to serve as a reminder when you need it.

Plan for Mastery

What are the chances that some students will struggle mastering the essay? All teachers know that every class has its quick learners. This book will show you how to help high achievers create outstanding essays while showing the teacher how to help slower students achieve full mastery of the five-paragraph essay. Parents and administrators will be impressed beyond words at your diligent instruction of the essay.

Bells and Whistles

Not only will your students be able to write a strong five-paragraph essay, they will be able to do it with style. Show your students how to write college level essays by adding spectacular "bells" and "whistles" to their essays. Your students will be able to write Interesting Introductions, Classy Conclusions, and Terrific Transitions. Be prepared to amaze parents, other teachers, and administrators with your students' amazing essays.

The Next Level

This book leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Your students will learn to write the five-paragraph essay using one simple, basic format. Once they have mastered this format, taking their essays to the next level is easy. Writing essays in all domains of writing is amazingly simple. Your students will be able to write essays on topics such as Problem-Solution, Cause and Effect, Autobiographical Incident, Persuasive Argument, and much more. All forms of writing become easy once your students have mastered the basic essay format.


Table of Contents

The Steps
(Click to view sample)

Transition Words Worksheet #1 (Click to view sample)

Download a 6 page preview:(Click to download preview)

This 60+ page book contains all the lesson plans you need and includes more than a dozen worksheets to help your students master the five-paragraph essay.

Watch a video demonstration for How To Teach the Five Paragraph Essay




The ability to organize one's thoughts and communicate ideas clearly is the backbone of good writing. This is why many states are beginning to test students as early as fourth grade on each student's ability to write multiple paragraphs on a single topic. The five-paragraph essay is considered the foundation of good writing.



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