How to Teach the Basics of the Five Paragraph Essay With a Thesis Graphic Organizer


Handout for Teaching Introduction to Thesis Statements and the Five Paragraph Essay FormatIn our school district, students are first introduced to the fundamentals of a five paragraph essay in the seventh grade. It’s a brand new concept to them, so I teach them the most basic thesis, which uses three main points, before we embark on the writing of our first five-paragraph essay.

If you’re unfamiliar with this method of organizing an essay, it’s pretty simplistic. The writer chooses a topic like, say, pets for example. Then he/she writes a thesis that is designed to prove which of the three kinds of pets is the best. So I might have  a thesis that looks something like this:

If I had my choice between horses, cats, and dogs, I’d choose dogs as the ideal family pet.

Now the writer embarks on the creation of an essay that proves this thesis. He/she must include an introduction (which typically precedes the thesis), a paragraph about the first main point (horses), a follow-up paragraph on the second main point (cats), and a paragraph in which they praise the third main point (dogs). Finally, they re-state the thesis with a summary at the start of the final paragraph and wrap the whole thing up with a couple of sentences of conclusion.

This is, at its foundation, a persuasive essay. It’s a tough thing for concrete-operational learners to grasp–the fact that an essay, with a person’s opinion embedded in its body, can follow a specific structure. Yet this format is used for public speaking quite universally. So it’s an important skill to teach and to have students learn.

For today’s post, I’m sharing the Thesis Statement Graphic Organizer that I use whenever I’m starting my unit on persuasive five-paragraph essays. I hope you’ll find it as helpful as I have, for simplifying the essay for those concrete-operational learners.

Once they’ve finished filling out the organizer, you can even have them cut this graphic organizer into strips, lining up their pieces in this order:

  • on top: the thesis
  • next: topic one’s list of facts
  • next: topic two’s list of facts
  • next: topic three’s list of facts

Now have them write a re-stated thesis with a summary, cut it out, and stick it at the bottom. Each of these pieces will represent a single paragraph in their essay. This is a particularly helpful exercise for tactile learners.

Side note for my faithful followers: just like everyone else, I get busy around the holidays. I’m going to post one more thing next week; then you won’t hear from me again until after the New Year. Sorry! I’m just trying to keep my life as sane as it can be this time of year… 😉

Happy holidays from English Emporium!

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