Basic Essay Structure: the House not the Home!

This week we’ll be talking about basic Essay Structure.

A five paragraph essay is one simple way to organize your writing when you are in a hurry. Here are the basics.

Essay structure: the house, not the home.

A house is a building made out of building materials such as brick or wood. A narrative—a story—is a piece of writing built from the telling of a series of events, typically told from beginning to end in a way that is interesting and highlights characters (real or imaginary) and the problems they face. An essay is a piece of writing organized by ideas. In an essay, writers typically make a claim and then use evidence, such as reasons or examples, to support that claim.

The five paragraph essay is one simple structure you can use to build a solid essay. The 5PE is not the only structure you can use. It’s not even always the best. But it is one way to help you organize your ideas.

These are the parts of a 5PE: (This could be more effectively done if there were a graphic component to it)

Paragraph One: Introduction

  • Gets the reader’s attention.
  • Introduces the topic.
  • May introduce or briefly state the three main reasons to come.
  • Includes a thesis, claim, or promise statement.

Body Paragraph Two: Point #1

  • Transition and statement of the first reason or example in support of the thesis.
  • Elaboration, proof or evidence for the first reason or example in support of the thesis.


Body Paragraph Three: Point #2

  • Transition and statement of the second reason or example in support of the thesis.
  • Elaboration, proof or evidence for the second reason or example in support of the thesis.

Body Paragraph Three: Point #3

  • Transition and statement of the third reason or example in support of the thesis.
  • Elaboration, proof or evidence for the second reason or example in support of the thesis.

Paragraph Five: Conclusion

  • Pulls it all together, but doesn’t introduce any new reasons.
  • Revisits/restates/hammers home the thesis, claim, or promise statement.

We’ll look at a couple of example essays today, and highlight some of the major parts:

  • The claim or thesis.
  • Reasons or points that support the claim.
  • Evidence/reason/proof that back up the reasons.
  • Restatement of these claim or the thesis.

You will probably also notice a lot of other essay elements; feel free to highlight them as well. The examples we used can be found (with special highlighting you didn’t see) here (Cats are Great) and here (Hazards of Moviegoing).

Writing kick off and more goals!

I’ve been reading all the short essays we wrote this week, and I appreciate how seriously most of you took that assignment. As I said in my introduction, a focus in our writing unit will be on how to use simple organizational strategies in writing to produce more and better writing efficiently. This is an important study skill because not all writing we do is as in-depth as the writing we often work on in Humanities. Sometimes, we just have to produce short essays in an efficient way.

One thing we know from our discussions about procrastination is that getting started is often the most difficult part of any job. Having a simple organizational and planning strategy ‘in your pocket’ can help make tasks seem  a little less overwhelming!

On days 1 and 2 this week, we’ll be reviewing your power school, as usual, and reflecting on where it makes sense to focus our effort going forward. I’d also like you to think about a learning habit you’ve been working on over the past week or so. As we know, research shows that reflecting on our learning makes us better learners!

Writing long sentences correctly

In school, we teach students to avoid run-on sentences. Run-on sentences often happen when we string together two or three perfectly good sentences into one large, clumsy one. Run-ons can be confusing,  hard to follow, and grammatically incorrect–all good reasons to avoid them. This week on days 5 and 6, we’ll take a close look at long sentences.

In many cases, writing short sentences is a good idea. Short sentences are often the easiest way to keep our ideas clear and well organized. But long sentences can add interest and variety to a piece of writing, and they are sometimes the only way to express complex ideas. They can also be fun to read! Here is my favorite long sentence, an extremely well written run-on that you can find in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

In after-years [Piglet] liked to think that he had been in Very Great Danger during the Terrible Flood, but the only danger he had really been in was in the last half-hour of his imprisonment, when Owl, who had just flown up, sat on a branch of his tree to comfort him, and told him a very long story about an aunt who had once laid a seagull’s egg by mistake, and the story went on and on, rather like this sentence, until Piglet who was listening out of his window without much hope, went to sleep quietly and naturally, slipping slowly out of the window towards the water until he was only hanging on by his toes, at which moment luckily, a sudden loud squawk from Owl, which was really part of the story, being what his aunt said, woke Piglet up and just gave him time to jerk himself back into safety and say, “How interesting, and did she?” when—well, you can imagine his joy when at last he saw the good ship, The Brain of Pooh(Captain, C. Robin; 1st Mate, P. Bear) coming over the sea to rescue him.
-A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, 145-146.

Only really excellent writers can manage a sentence like that. But even beginning writers can write longer sentences to give variety to their writing. Often this involves hooking together two short sentences. There are rules for this, which you can read more about here. Below I’ve given some examples of the many ways you can hook together two short sentences without ‘breaking the rules’. For fun, I’ve color-coded the independent clauses.

The student wanted to write a long sentence to make her story more interesting, so she used a comma and the word ‘so’ to stick together two smaller sentences.

The teacher was tired of writing boring, short sentences; he decided to use a semi-colon to hook together two related independent clauses!

Ms. Coyle was once a Humanities teacher, and she knew it was wrong to hook together two or more independent clauses with just a comma, so she hooked up three small sentences with commas and coordinating conjunctions.

Today, why don’t you go find a long sentence that you like and write it in your writers’ notebook? Or, if you feel very creative, you can just make one up! If you have time, why not type it in the comments below?

Words, words and more words

‘No homework weekends’ are a great time to catch up on any missing work you may have at this point in the year. Please check PowerSchool and make a note of anything you still need to do. Weekends are also a great time to read, so remember to take your independent reading book home when you go on Thursday!

On Day 5 and 6 this week (Wednesday and Thursday), we’ll build some interesting sentences out of words that can be used in mathematical and non-mathematical ways. Each of this week’s words can also be used as a verb or as a noun.

Depending on what grade you are in, please write at least one grammatically correct sentence that uses your word:

  • Sixth graders, please use factor in an interesting way.
  • Seventh graders, please use coordinate in an interesting way.
  • Eighth graders, please use intercept in an interesting way.

Those who want a challenge can write try to use all three words in one or more sentences. It would be great to see some of you post your sentences on the blog.