Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Battle of the Five Paragraph Essay

YEAH...we did it.  My class wrote their first five paragraph essay and there were no tears...including mine!  I am so proud of my fourth graders.

The first lesson that I did with the kids was discuss  narrative vs. expository writing.  We created a great anchor chart for the room.

Then, the children brainstormed memorable events.  We talked about different feelings to think about memories and memorable events in their lives. (ex. happy, scared, sad, nervous, etc.)  We also talked about narrowing down the topics. (ex. trip to Disney vs. ride on Space Mountain)  They choose an idea and I had them draw a detailed picture that helps tell the story.  I wanted a visual for their memory.  We had read a story called "Family Pictures" in our basal.  The book had great illustration that told stories.  I also read "Tar Beach" which is a personal narrative.  We talked about the story quilts of Faith Ringold.  I had the students draw a quilt border on their illustrations.

Next, we did a mini-lesson on great beginnings using ideas from empowering writers and a unit from Rundee's Room on TPT (has great posters and resources).  We made another anchor chart.  The kids wrote their great beginnings on a Four Square graphic organizer in the center of the paper.  The children used a piece of white drawing paper to create a four square.  
The Comprehensive Narrative Writing Guide: All the Skills You Need to Teach Good Writing (Empowering Writers)

The next step was writing a major event from the beginning, middle and end on the four square.  Then we went back and added details under each major event using bulleted ideas.  After that the children wrote their feeling for the closing  in the fourth box.

Four Square Writing Method: A Unique Approach to Teaching Basic Writing Skills for Grades 4-6
Once the organizer was complete we added a transition word to each box and circled it.  There are many lists of transition words on the web and some ideas in the "Four Square" book.  I also modeled how to add details to the introduction and conclusion. The intro might include who, what, where, and when.  The ending could have thoughts, connection, hopes, etc. 

The children had no problems taking their four square graphic organizers and putting them into paragraphs on paper.  They still need reminders about indenting on a new line  when starting a new paragraph.

The revising and editing process involved making an anchor chart.  I had them using two different colored pens for this step.  Revising is blue and editing is green.  They completed this process with a buddy and then by themselves.  I did the final conference in red.  My anchor chart was a mess so I typed up one for the room.  The font is teachers's pet and is size 48 if you would like to make your own.

Click on the images on the left to download:

My children copied over their stories and added creative catchy titles.  They will be saved in a hard cover portfolio book along with their illustrations. 

We spent about 2-3 weeks on our personal narratives.

Now on to the next piece... 
Expository writing here we come!!!!!


  1. I linked your four square go chart into my post about main idea and emotional have GREAT ideas and I am a new follower :)

  2. Just finding this gem now! Can't wait to try it on my 4th graders this year! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I can definitely recommend a website that really helped me with my essay. I found out it was due the day before I had to submit it. Went into full-on panic mode. Worst experience of my senior year by far. It’s called The quality of the writing is passable but the completion rate is super quick. You get to pick your own writer to do your stuff and that’s also a big bonus.