Five Paragraph Essay – Overview – Seeing Where the Blanks Are

FiveParagraphEssayStructureThis is the first handout / infographic that all students receive.  It is a free download available as a pdf file under the Downloads page.

If you have not done so already, go to the downloads page to open, download, and/or print the Five Paragraph Essay Structure.  An image of the handout is available here, but the full page pdf is designed to open clearly in your browser, the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, or print and slip easily into your notebook.

As a one page infographic, the Five Paragraph Essay Structure serves as a road map to show you where the blanks are and what you need to fill in those blanks to get the essay written on paper.

Walk through the entire lesson with me on video or scroll down to continue the lesson text.

Essay Flowchart Shapes

Look at the numbered shapes on the left side of the handout.  They’re not there just to look pretty.   The shapes actually have meaning.

They are numbered 1 through 5 for our five (5) paragraph essay structure.  They represent a very definitive flow from top to bottom representing each of the individual paragraphs in the essay.

5 Paragraph Shapes

  • The inverted (up-side-down) triangle at the top represents the introductory paragraph.  In the introduction, you want to open wide with an attention getter and pull the readers in to your very focused thesis statement (one sentence that includes the topic and three points).


  • The three squares represent the three body paragraphs.  For each of the body paragraphs you will fill in all the details regarding one topic point.


  • The regular triangle represents the concluding paragraph.  The conclusion refocuses on the thesis, then spreads out into a closing summary or call to action.


Line-by-Line/Sentence-by-Sentence Breakdown for Each Part of the Essay

Each of the five paragraphs will include 4-5 sentences.

The entire essay should be 20-25 sentences / 400-600 words.

Keep in mind that just because the sentences in the essay have to be written in a specific order on paper – that doesn’t mean that you have to create/write those sentences in order.

Yes.  The sentences (blanks) must appear in a specific order in the essay.  Many of us, however, get stuck on those first lines, the attention getter.  That’s okay.  SKIP IT.  You can come back and write it later.

Start With The Thesis Statement to Outline Your Essay

Honestly, the first thing I have my students write for ANY essay, is the thesis statement (the last line of the first paragraph – details below).  That doesn’t mean that it appears first in the essay.  It’s just the first sentence they write.

It’s a quick way to focus the topic on exactly what stuff you want to cover in the essay.  It makes a quick and easy outline for the body paragraphs, AND it helps you stay focused on the topic and THOSE three points rather than wandering off topic as you write the rest of the paper.

Stick to the Five Paragraph Essay Structure.  Fill in the blanks, and you should have all the necessary items included without extra or distracting sentences that aren’t really relevant.


  1. Attention Getter
  2. Explication (ties 1 to 3)
  3. Thesis Statement (Topic + 3 Points that preview the 3 body paragraphs)


Attention Getter

The first 1-2 sentences should be an Attention Getter to draw the reader in.  Graders may be scoring hundreds of these essays at one time, and many will be on the same topic specified for the exam/assignment.  Anything you can do to draw attention and interest the reader will benefit your potential score.

Let’s take some of the pressure off.  This does not have to be the perfect attention getter.

It’s not like you’re writing an essay to publish in some fancy literary magazine.  You’re trying to PASS an essay.

It certainly doesn’t hurt if the attention getter is a good one, but it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering.  Your main goal is to make sure you DO include an attention getter of some kind.  The graders need to know that you are aware that an attention getter belongs there and that you made the effort to put it there.

For those who get stuck on attention getters, a separate lesson will be available JUST on attention getters.

Thesis Statement

This is the absolute MOST important part of your paper.

To repeat,


The thesis statement is just fancy terminology for the last sentence of the first paragraph that INCLUDES the TOPIC and THREE POINTS.  (This is a solid sentence to preview the details that you will use in the body paragraphs to reinforce or prove each of those three points, as they relate to the stated topic.)

Keep this simple and fill in the blank.  The last sentence in the first paragraph MUST be just ONE sentence, and it must include the topic and three points that you’ll explain further in the body.


After the attention getter, the next 2-3 sentences are primarily there to tie your attention getter to your thesis statement (last sentence in the paragraph).

The attention getter can’t just be some wild statement to get attention.  It actually has to relate to the paper’s topic in some way.  These middle sentences do that.  They explain (explication) how the attention getter is relevant to the thesis statement.


Once you’ve written the thesis statement, the body isn’t really that hard.  You have the three points that have outlined the three body paragraphs for you.

Do this three times…once for each of the three points you made in the thesis.

  1. Topic Sentence
  2. Explication

a. Define
b. Explain
c. Give example(s)

*     Transition

Topic Sentence

You start off with an EASY fill in the blank sentence.  You start the body paragraph with a topic sentence.  The topic sentence is basically your topic and ONE of the three points.  Just as the thesis statement previewed the three points for each body paragraph, the topic sentence previews the rest of the current body paragraph.


Explication takes the point further.  DO define, explain, and give an example(s).  You don’t necessarily have to do them in that specific order, but it seems to flow well as you think through the point.

You state the point in the topic sentence.  Then, you build on that with a definition.  You explain it further, and use an example or two to really drive the point home.


You define the point.  This doesn’t have to be a dictionary definition, though it could be.  Just state what the point “is.”


Take it further and explain the point.  Explain how that point is relevant to the topic.  You’re trying to prove your point …or “back it up.”

Give Example(s)

DO give an example or two.  A sentence or two with a real world example of how your point fits in the topic is VERY effective.

Explication in General

You don’t always have to do all three forms of explication either.  Sometimes a point just doesn’t “define” well.  That’s okay.  Spend a little more time explaining and giving examples.

Explication is not concrete, but if you do follow the define, explain, and give examples steps as a guide, you’ll find that writing one or two sentences for each fills your blanks in the paragraph of 4-5 (or more) sentences very quickly.


Transitions between each of the paragraphs are important to the flow of the paper.

Transitions ARE an important part of a good essay.  Frankly, if you fill in all these blanks writing your essay with just single sentences (without making them relate to each other), the essay could come out “choppy.”  You fix that by adding transitional phrases.

…and this is NOT hard to fix.  Read one sentence, then the next.  Do they relate to each other, or is one just kind of hanging there?  Make the sentences (and paragraphs) relate to each other with transitions.


Conclusion TriangleRemember the shape of the concluding paragraph.  The introduction starts wide, with an inverted triangle, then pulls you in to a focused thesis statement.

The conclusion does the opposite.  It starts with a focused recurrence of the thesis statement, then spreads out to refer back to the big picture, attention getter, or call to action.

Restate Thesis

Restate the thesis.  That means exactly what it says.  Don’t “copy” the thesis statement.  Restate or reword it a little bit.  Just make sure you still include the topic and three points.  THAT is your first sentence in the last paragraph…a reworded/restated thesis.

Easy, right?  …just one more sentence/blank that’s practically written for you already.


Then move on to explication…which is still just a little bit further than explanation.

In the conclusion, you could still follow the define, explain, and give examples pattern of thought, but it may come off sounding too much like another body paragraph.

You DON’T want the concluding paragraph to trail off like a fourth point.  It shouldn’t address any “new” information.  It’s more of a summary that brings the reader that sense of closure.

Just as the body explication sentences don’t necessarily include every component (define, explain, examples) or follow a specific order, the explication components in the conclusion are flexible, too.

After the first sentence (the restated thesis), the rest of the concluding paragraph should sum things up and offer closure.

  1. Restate Thesis
  2. Explication
a. Summarize
b. Make a Judgment
c. Refer Back to Attention Getter
d. Call to Action


You can summarize what you’ve said in the whole paper, but since you’ve just repeated points multiple times, a pure summary can be difficult.  I mean, how many different ways can you say it, right?

Make a Judgment

This one will actually depend on the assignment.  Sometimes the assignment WANTS you to express an opinion.  Sometimes, it requires an argument (pro or con) on a topic.  Sometimes, you have to argue one side of a topic, but you also have to write it in third person (no using the words, “I,” “we,” “you,” etc.  (That’s a bit advanced, though.  Passing a basic essay isn’t always THAT specifically detailed in terms of rules.  Check with your teacher or the exam expectations for the specific rules.)

Too, making a judgment may not fit with your topic.  Some topics are purely informational or descriptive.  There may be no need for a statement or sentences about judgment.

Refer Back to Attention Getter

DO refer back to your attention getter.  Whatever you used to draw readers in to the paper…you had to explicate and justify how that attention getter related to the topic.  Since you’ve now spent paragraphs further explaining your points and introducing new ideas and examples in the body, your conclusion is where you mention your original attention getter again.  Remind them of your opening and how it relates.

Call to Action

A call to action, or asking the reader to follow up and DO something after reading the essay isn’t anything new.  It’s more popular in speeches than written essays, but with the vast resources online and the ability to create links or write out a web address, the “call to action” is growing in popularity for written documents, including essays. Call to Action

For the conclusion of this lesson, I’ll offer a call to action for you, too.

If you haven’t done so already, submit your name and email address for the free mini-course on How to Write an Essay by filling-in-the blanks.  Additional lessons include a line-by-line/sentence-by-sentence walk through applying the Five Paragraph Essay Structure as we actually WRITE an essay together.  You will SEE exactly what sentences go where.

If the free mini-course is working for you already and you can’t wait for the next lesson, you can also purchase the full How to Pass an Essay package and get immediate access to the course pdfs, video lessons, additional handouts and tools, and even more walk-through examples writing essays on additional topics and all the lessons for spotting and fixing your own grammar errors, so you can PASS an essay.

One Response »

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for making these handouts and for giving a tutorial. I have always taught an essay this way and now that you have created handouts, it makes teaching so much easier. THANK YOU! The video tutorial is wonderful also. I love sending the video to parents to view and to help out the students, whenever they get confused.

    Thank you again! Love it!