5th grade writing

by: Jessica Kelmon | Updated: August 4, 2022

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Your fifth grader’s writing under Common Core Standards

By now, your child knows that writing is a process that requires research, feedback, and revision. This year, kids are expected to respond to others’ prompts for improvement and learn how to evaluate their own work, too.

Super study skills

In fifth grade, taking notes becomes an essential academic skill. Fifth graders use books, periodicals, websites, and other sources to do short research projects. Kids learn to use several sources to investigate a topic from different angles — both on their own and as part of group work with peers. Your child should keep track of all the sources they use and note what they learn, the name of the source, and the page number or url so they can find it again to create a source list or bibliography later. A big step in your child’s research process this year: taking the time to review, categorize, and summarize or paraphrase the information they’ve learned. What did your child find out about the animal’s habitat from each source? Sorting evidence into categories and summarizing information will help your fifth grader with the planning, writing, and revising stages of their writing project.

Can your 5th grader get organized to write an essay?

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Revise, rewrite

By now, your child should understand that writing is a process requiring several steps: planning, first draft, revisions, editing, and publishing or sharing work. Your child’s planning work should include reading and rereading, taking notes, finding additional sources, discussing how new knowledge fits into what your child knew before, visually organizing the information they plan to include, and determining the best way to clearly present their evidence as a cohesive set of points. After the first draft is written, the teacher and other students will offer feedback: asking questions to elicit new details, suggesting ways to clarify an argument, or pressing for new sources of information. Don’t be surprised if there are a few rounds of revisions this year: it’s how your child’s writing gets stronger. If revisions aren’t enough to improve your child’s writing, then this year your child may be required to rewrite the piece or try a new approach . Once the structure and contents are set, final edits are the time to perfect spelling and grammar. All this work on one writing assignment is meant to help your child think of writing as a multistep process so they can evaluate their work and see that — if it’s not up to snuff — they should keep trying until it is.

Fifth grade writing: opinion pieces

Your child’s opinion pieces should start by clearly stating an opinion about a topic. Then, kids should set up and follow a logically ordered structure to introduce each reason they’ll offer in support of their opinion. Their reasons should be supported by facts and details (a.k.a. evidence), and your child should use linking words, such as additionally, consequently , and specifically to connect evidence-backed reasons to their opinion. Finally, kids should close their argument with a well-articulated conclusion that supports their original opinion.

Fifth grade writing: informative writing

Logic reigns when evaluating your fifth grader’s informative writing. The purpose of this type of writing is to convey facts and ideas clearly. So a logically ordered presentation of supporting points is, well… quite logical. Your child should clearly introduce the topic and present related information in the form of a few clear, well-thought-out paragraphs. Kids should draw on facts, definitions, concrete details, quotes, and examples from their research to thoroughly develop their topic. To clearly connect their research, fifth graders should use advanced linking words (e.g. in contrast, especially ) to form compound and complex sentences that convey their points. Remember that your child’s presentation matters: making use of subject headings, illustrations, and even multimedia to illustrate points is encouraged whenever they make your child’s work more logical and clear. Then, to wrap it up, your child should have a well-reasoned conclusion.

Check out these three real examples of good 5th grade informational writing: •” How to save water ” •” Saving a Resource ” •” Water Saveing ”

Can your 5th grader write an informational essay?

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5th grade writing: narrative writing

A narrative is a story. Whether inspired by a book, real events, or your child’s imagination, your child’s story should start by introducing a narrator, characters, or a situational conflict. Fifth graders will be asked to use classic narrative devices like dialogue, descriptive words, and character development. Your child should be able to show how characters feel and how they react to what’s happening. Finally, the events should unfold naturally, plausibly bringing the story to a close.

Grammatically correct

By now, your fifth grader should have a solid understanding of the parts of speech. This year, your child should learn to use and explain the function of conjunctions (e.g. because, yet ), prepositions (e.g. above, without ), and interjections (e.g. Hi, well, dear ). Kids should also start using correlative conjunctions (e.g. either/or, neither/nor ). What’s more, students learn to form and use the past, present, and future perfect tenses ( I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked. ). With this tense mastered, fifth graders will be expected to use various verb tenses to convey a sequence of events and to recognize and correct any inappropriate shifts in tense.

Check out this related worksheet: •  Active and passive sentences

More sophisticated language

This year your child will: • Regularly refer to print and online dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries to spell challenging words correctly. • Use academic vocabulary words in writing. • Use more nuanced descriptions (think advanced synonyms and antonyms). • Master homographs (e.g. understand that bear means the animal and to support or carry). • Employ common idioms, adages, and proverbs (e.g. “born yesterday”; “the early bird gets the worm”; “failure teaches success” ) • Interpret figurative language like similes (e.g. “light as a feather” ) and metaphors ( “it’s a dream come true” ).

This year, your child will learn to use commas after a sentence’s introductory segment (e.g. Earlier this morning, we ate breakfast .), to set off the words yes and no in writing (e.g. Y es, we will ; and no, thank you ), to set off a question from the rest of a sentence (e.g. It’s true, isn’t it? ), and to show direct address. (e.g. Is that you, Mike? ) Your child will also use commas to separate items in a series. (e.g. I want eggs, pancakes, and juice .)

Your child should also be taught how to consistently use quotation marks, italics, or underlining to indicate titles when citing sources in reports and papers.

Check out these related worksheets: •  Punctuating a paragraph • Simile or cliche? •  Homophones and homographs

And it’s live!

The final step in writing this year? Publishing! Once all the hard work (the research, planning, writing, revisions, edits, and rewrites) are finished, your fifth grader’s ready to publish. Many classes will experiment with printing work or publishing it on a blog, website, or app. While teachers should be there for support, your child should be doing the work. The point is to learn keyboarding skills (2 full pages is the goal for fifth graders) and to interact and collaborate with peers. This could mean, for example, that your child reads a classmate’s published work online and either comments on it or references it when answering a question in class.

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

5th grade writing doesn’t have to be a struggle! This blog post will provide all of my best tips and ideas for teaching your fifth graders to succeed as writers.

I’ve had classes where writing was a struggle allll yearrrr longggg. I’ve also had classes where I’d swear my students were one step away from writing professionally.

Your groups will never be the same and that’s ok. Just roll with it!

Take heart in the fact that when students leave your class at the end of the year, they will be MUCH better writers than when they entered in the fall.

No matter how good (or bad) my students are at writing when 5th grade begins, we always start at the very beginning and work on writing strong sentences.

This post will give you a step-by-step breakdown of how I help my students move from dull to dazzling sentences: How to Help Your Students Write Better Sentences

Once they’ve got the hang of writing an excellent sentence, then we move on. Your class may move slowly or quickly but be sure to watch their writing closely for clues that you may need to slow down.

You need to know where you’re going to know how you should plan the journey. So, the next section lays out my end-of-the-year goals for my 5th grade writers. Everything I do all year leads to the completion of these goals.

End of the year goals for 5th grade writers

My end-of-the-year goals for my 5th grade writers….

By the time my students walk out of my classroom for the last time…

1. I want them to be able to efficiently organize their ideas and plan/write a five paragraph essay.

2. I want my students to be able to construct narrative, informative, and opinion essays.

3. I want my students to be able to choose appropriate sources and write a simple research report. 

4. I want my students to be able to closely read two paired passages and write an essay in response to a prompt. 

If you’re looking for a hyperlinked pdf version of my pacing and sequence for 5th grade writing, click the link below to have it sent to your email address. As a bonus, you’ll become a member of my weekly VIP email club just for upper elementary teachers. 🙂

5th grade writing samples

Obtain a Writing Sample!  

Give students a simple prompt and ask for a response in a paragraph or two. Emphasize to students that you are not grading writing samples for grammar, spelling, or structure. You are interested in the quality of their ideas. 

This writing sample will be valuable as the year goes on. Your students will improve so much that their first samples will (hopefully) be pathetic compared to their new, improved writing pieces.

I usually whip out their first samples after we’ve written a few five paragraph essays. Students feel inspired to keep growing their writing skills when they see how far they’ve come in just a few months. 

Example Writing Sample Prompts: 

  • Describe a talent or characteristic that makes you unique and different.
  • Tell about a time when you set a goal for yourself and reached that goal.
  • Pretend you live in a society where children are required to choose their future career paths in the 5th grade. What path would you choose? Explain.

5th grade writing reference notebooks

Create Writing Reference Notebooks with students! 

I’ll admit it – I’m a little obsessed with writing reference notebooks. We use composition notebooks to create these amazing sources of knowledge and we use them all year long. 

So, where do we start with creating writing reference notebooks?

The beginning section of students’ notebooks hold reference materials. I want students to have plenty of resources at their fingertips to improve their sentence writing, including alternatives for overused words and my specialty, sparkle words. Sparkle words are words that are just a little bit special and make my students’ writing shine, like scandalous, embrace, and intriguing.

Other ways that my students use their writing reference notebooks:

  • Writing journal entries
  • Creating a personal thesaurus
  • Writing topics & ideas list
  • Taking notes on writing skills lessons
  • Writing first drafts of longer assignments

This resource will give you an idea of the printable pages that I use for students’ notebooks: Writing Interactive Notebook – Reference Pages

Do I take grades on students’ writing reference notebooks? Not really. I want these notebooks to be a safe space for students to jot ideas and take risks with their first drafts. I do sometimes take a participation grade on their notebooks. This encourages students to keep their notebooks organized and up to date.

5th grade sentence writing

Start with sentences!  

When teaching 5th grade, you can expect students to start the year writing complete sentences, right?! No, sorry. Whether it’s the long break or maybe your students’ 4th grade teachers never required a lick of writing, your 5th graders will often begin the year with less-than-stellar sentences. 

So, I just plan to start with sentences first every year. We work on building and expanding sentences for about two weeks. Yes, two weeks probably seems like a really long time, but spectacular sentences are the foundation for creating great writers.

To improve my students’ sentences, I take the basic, simple sentences that students write and we work on adding more specific details and interest. First, I give students a list of five nouns and ask them to write one sentence using each noun.

I usually get sentences similar to these:

  • Pie is my favorite dessert.
  • My dad’s car is red.
  • I wear my jacket when it is cold.
  • This school is a nice place to learn.
  • The tree is tall.

This is where I want students to get in their sentence-writing before moving on:

  • Pecan, cherry, apple, or pumpkin… any type of pie is delicious!
  • My dad spends his Saturdays washing and shining up his candy apple red Jeep.
  • A puffy, hooded jacket is the first thing I reach for on chilly mornings.
  • My school, North Hills Elementary, has the best teachers and students.
  • The tall Redwood tree in my front yard is a welcome sight to visitors and makes my house look spectacular.

Students should write every single day!

My students write every single day!  

I vividly remember being in 5th grade myself and writing long papers on the most boring topics ever, like “The Science of Light” and “The History of Mapmaking.” Snooze fest! I vowed to never do that to my students. Instead, I took a different route.

Students absolutely need to learn to write full reports and five paragraph essays, but they don’t need to do this every week. They do, however, need to continually practice writing. I find that if I make writing assignments engaging, my students don’t complain and actually seem to enjoy writing.

I assign Weekly Writing Choice Boards . This writing has made all the difference in my classroom! Students are now excited about writing class. They see writing as a treat and a fun way to express their thoughts and opinions.

I hand out a new choice board every week and students must complete three assignments from the board. I don’t grade these on perfect grammar, spelling, or punctuation, instead I look for ideas and effort. Even imperfect writing practice will improve your students’ writing skills tremendously!

Enter your first name and email address below for a free set of 6 Weekly Writing Choice Boards! The pdf file will be sent directly to your inbox. As a bonus, you’ll become a member of my weekly VIP email club just for upper elementary teachers. 🙂

If you teach social studies in addition to writing, this blog post will give you a bunch of engaging social studies journal entries that will help you tie social studies into your writing instruction.

Teach your 5th grade students to proofread and edit!

Train students in proofreading and editing!  

Student need to practice proofreading and editing their writing (and the writing of other students) near the beginning of the school year.

Repeatedly practicing the steps of the proofreading/editing process will help your students to internalize this procedure. You’ll find that they will start to catch their mistakes earlier and more independently.

I find it valuable to establish and consistently use a common “proofreading language” in my classroom. It takes a little time up front to teach students the markings and their meanings but having a common system for proofreading will save loads of time throughout the school year.

This resource will give you an idea of the proofreading marks and practice that I use in my classroom: Proofreading and Editing Activity Pack

Asking your students to proofread and edit their own writing is a must but it’s also a good thing to have students pair up and look over a partner’s writing also. Your students will receive valuable feedback on their writing, editing ideas, and they’ll get to see some writing styles that are a little different from their own.

Teach 5 paragraph essays one piece at a time!

Teach five paragraph essays one piece at a time! 

Simple Paragraphs

Once my students are stellar sentence writers, we move to simple paragraphs. The simple paragraphs that I use with students consist of a topic sentence, three detail sentences, and a closing sentence.

Starting with simple paragraphs is much less threatening than jumping straight into five paragraph essays, so I find that spending some time helping students write excellent simple paragraphs is the perfect bridge into essays.

Additionally, we color-code our simple paragraphs. This allows students to think critically about what sentence types they have written and provides a visual for students (and for me) to see that all required parts of the paragraph are included.

The color-code I use with students:

  • Topic sentence – green
  • 3 detail sentences – yellow
  • Closing sentence – red

Planning and Writing Body Paragraphs

Once students are able to write great simple paragraphs, we dive into the planning and writing of body paragraphs.

This isn’t too much of a jump for students because the body paragraphs are structured similarly to the simple paragraphs that we have practiced over and over. The only difference is that they are using one prompt to write three body paragraphs.

Many teachers think they have to start with the first paragraph of the essay, the introduction paragraph. This isn’t what I recommend. Starting by teaching students to write the three body paragraphs helps to steer the rest of the essay.

Adding an Introduction Paragraph

Now that students are able to write their three body paragraphs, it’s time to add the introduction paragraph.

The introduction paragraph contains a hook, commentary, and a thesis sentence.

The hook is a sentence (or two) that “hooks” readers and builds interest in the upcoming essay. I teach my students several types of hooks, including quotes, questions, bold statements, or sharing a memory.

After the hook, I ask students to write a sentence or two of commentary on the hook or on the prompt in general. This helps to “bulk up” their introduction paragraph a bit and make it more interesting.

The final part of the introduction paragraph is the thesis sentence. Because students already learned to write the body paragraphs, crafting a thesis sentence is so much easier.

The formula for writing a thesis sentence: Restate the prompt briefly + detail 1 + detail 2 + detail 3.

Additionally, I teach transition teams at this point. Students need to use a transition word or phrase at the beginning of each body paragraph, so that’s where transition teams come in. Transition teams are sets of three transition words or phrases that work well together.

Examples of transition teams:

  • First, Second, Finally
  • To begin, To continue, To end
  • One reason, Another reason, A final reason

Adding a Conclusion Paragraph

When conclusion paragraph day finally arrives, my students are so excited because they can finally write an entire five paragraph essay.

In my opinion, conclusion paragraphs are super easy to teach because they only have two parts. Here’s the conclusion paragraph formula: Write the thesis sentence in a different way + add a closing thought.

I allow students to be creative with their closing thoughts. I tell them that this is the final thought that your readers will take with them, so it needs to relate well to your entire essay while being engaging and thought-provoking for readers. Some examples of closing thoughts are calls to action, quotes, personal opinions, and brief personal experiences.

Teach, Discuss, & Practice with Rubrics

I inform my students that from this point on in their school journey, they will be graded with rubrics fairly often, so this is a good time to learn about rubrics and become familiar with them.

I create or find five paragraph essay samples that are good, bad, and in-between. We read and examine the samples as a class and circle the applicable parts of the rubric. If students are able to grade a few assignments using a rubric, it’s not this unknown, scary thing anymore. 

Are you grading every single word and making a million corrections on students’ essays? I give you permission to stop doing that! 🙂

You are going to burn yourself out and get to where you hate grading and teaching writing. To be honest, your students will not become better writers when their papers are marked all over with suggestions in the margins.

Help! I need more support…

Please visit the following blog post for in-depth explanations and examples of my five paragraph essay teaching and grading process: 

Tips for Teaching and Grading Five Paragraph Essays

This resource will provide you with a full, scaffolded unit that will help you to teach the five paragraph essay process to students! Five Paragraph Essay Instructional Unit

Teaching students to write narrative, opinion, and informative essays

Narrative, Informative, and Opinion Essays

As much as we’d like to just have our students write simple, straightforward five paragraph essays all year, that’s just not feasible.

But I promise, once your students can crank out those five paragraph essays on simple topics, moving to other modes of writing is no sweat! 

In my classroom, we spend time learning to write opinion essays, narrative essays, and informative essays. 

I start with opinion writing because my students have a lot of opinions, haha! We channel those opinions into five paragraph essay format. 🙂

Teaching research reports to 5th grade students

Research Reports

The skills involved in writing a research report are valuable for 5th graders. They need to be able to judge the reliability of a source and cite their sources properly. 

Research reports also teach students to organize their ideas, take notes, make an outline, write a draft, and create a final report. 

I’d like to point you to the following blog post where I detailed my entire process for teaching research reports.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Teaching Research Reports

Teaching paired passages to 5th grade students

Paired Passages

5th graders are too young to compare two passages and write a response. Right?! 

No, this is not true at all. I think that reading paired passages and using them to craft a written response is a valuable skill for 5th graders. 

Steps to analyzing paired passages and writing an essay to answer a prompt:

First, dissect the prompt.

Second, closely read the paired texts.

Third, organize thoughts using the prompt.

The following blog post explains my paired passage writing steps in detail. Take a moment to check it out. You’ll be glad you did! 

How to Teach Writing Using Paired Passages

Sequence & Pacing for Teach 5th Grade Writing

My Sequence & Pacing for Teaching 5th Grade Writing

Don’t stress! This sequence and pacing guide is hyperlinked and ready to be sent to your email address. Go to the bottom of this blog post to request the guide.

1st Month of School

We start school in the middle of the month, so I only have two weeks to teach during the first month of school.

This is the rundown for the remainder of the month:

Month 1, Week 3

The first week of the school year is all about teaching and practicing procedures. Teach it right or teach it all year! 🙂

Classroom Procedures – I recommend you check out this blog post:  5 Tips for Establishing Procedures in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Welcome Activities –  Welcome to 5th Grade: First Week of School Activities

Blog Post – Back to School Writing Prompts for 5th Graders

Month 1, Week 4

During this week, I review and continue practicing procedures with students but we do go ahead and start working on writing.

I establish my expectations and procedures for my students’ Weekly Writing Choice Boards.

We set up writing notebooks together, including the table of contents, cover page, and an  About the Author  page. 

Obtain a writing sample

We start working on improving sentences.

2nd Month of School

Month 2, Week 1

We continue working on improving sentences.

Start proofreading/editing instruction and practice.

Month 2 , Week 2

Review the process for writing excellent sentences.

Finish proofreading/editing instruction and practice.

Month 2, Weeks 3-4

Writing simple paragraphs (include color-code)

3rd Month of School

Month 3, Weeks 1-2

Planning & writing body paragraphs (include color-code)

Month 3, Weeks 3-4

Teach introduction paragraphs

Writing introduction plus body paragraphs (include color code)

Transition teams

4th Month of School

Month 4, Weeks 1-2

Teach students how to write conclusion paragraphs.

Students will write their first full five paragraph essays this week.

Month 4, Weeks 3-4

Write 5 paragraph essays with a variety of basic prompts.

Have students proofread/edit other students’ essays.

Provide mini-lessons on grammar structure or other issues you are noticing in students’ writing.

5th Month of School

This is where our winter break falls, so I only have two weeks to teach this month.

This is a great time to review what we’ve been working on all year and assign some fun journal prompts.

Also, writing mini-lessons are good fillers for this time.

This Winter Writing Project is a student favorite right before winter break!

6th Month of School

Month 6, Week 1

When we come back from winter break, I like to teach the research report process. I spend a week teaching the process and giving students time to research while I’m there to help.

Month 6, Week 2

Student complete their research reports, including outlines, citing sources, and etc.

I ask my students to do super quick presentations on their research topics. It’s 1-2 minutes max. I don’t want them to read their reports aloud because that’s boring. Instead, I want them to quickly highlight what they learned about their topics and what was fascinating to them.

Month 6, Week 3

We review the five paragraph essay process and write/proofread/edit an essay with a simple prompt.

Month 6, Week 4

I start opinion writing this week. You’ll find that students will slide into opinion writing easily because they already know five paragraph essay structure.

7th Month of School

Month 7, Week 1

Continue working on opinion writing. By the end of this week, students should be able to write an opinion essay using a prompt.

Month 7, Weeks 2-3

We spend two weeks on narrative writing. By the end of the second week, students should be able to write a narrative essay using a prompt.

Month 7, Week 4

This week, I teach the process of writing an informative essay.

8th Month of School

Month 8, Week 1

Continue working on informative essays. Students should be able to write an informative essay using a prompt by the end of this week.

Month 8, Weeks 2-3

Teach students how to write an essay using paired passages.

For more information on how I teach the steps above, visit this blog post: How to Teach Writing Using Paired Passages

Month 8, Week 4

Now that students know the process of using paired passages, I provide a set of paired passages and ask students to answer prompts in a variety of genres, like opinion, narrative, informative, poetry, and etc.

This resource makes it easy:

Paired Passages with Writing Prompts and Activities Bundle

9th Month of School

Month 9, Week 1

Continue working on using paired passages to write in a variety of genres.

Talk about last minute standardized testing tips to help students with their writing tests.

The rest of the month is taken up with standardized testing, so I do a lot of review activities, free writing, and etc.

I do have a set of suspense stories that my students love to write during this month. Check them out here: Suspense Stories Bundle

10th Month of School

During this month, we are wrapping up the year. Students participate in multiple activities and field trips, so there’s not much teaching time.

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, don’t dismay. Instructing young, inexperienced writers is a challenge. Just work on one step at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself and your students. Once you’ve taught writing for a year or two, you’ll feel like an old pro. Promise! 

How I Teach 5th Grade Writing

If you’d like to keep this blog post for later, simply save this pin to your teacher Pinterest board!

Are you that teacher saying, “oh my goodness, please just give me the print ‘n go pages so that i can start teaching writing tomorrow” it’s all here for you:.

writing lessons for 5th grade

I’m not a teacher, perhaps in my heart I am. I am an older Mom who adopted late in life as God gave us our newborn in our 50’s! By His grace, we are healthy, fit, youngish 50’s LOL! I love your stuff and have always supplemented Fi’s education., for I find the California standards quite low. Now that I have her in a college-prep school (5th Grade) I find she is much more prepared because of your wisdom! Thank you. Sophia Joy is someone who has always had to work hard at school, but it is paying off! Thank you and God bless you richly for being so generous with your wisdom,it will all come back to you 100-fold! Sincerely, Susan, Sophia Joy’s Mom

Thank you so much, Susan! You certainly have a heartwarming story with your precious girl 🙂

Hello When you do the back to school journal prompts, where do you have students complete these? On single paper, google classroom?

Hi Sarah! Usually, I have students complete the prompts in their social studies interactive notebooks. This year, however, we were virtual at the beginning of the year, so I had students type their entries onto Google Docs.

Hi! I am a new 5th grade teacher, and I’m wondering if your school uses a particular writing curriculum? Your website has been so helpful – thank you!!

Hi Jenny! We don’t use a particular writing curriculum at my school. I use my own resources to teach writing. Please reach out to me at [email protected] if I can help or answer any questions for you 🙂

Do you have any resources in Spanish?

Hi Danielle! The only resources I have in Spanish are my Parent’s Guide to Reading resources, grades K-5.

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How to Write a Fifth-Grade Essay

How to write a sixth-grade essay.

Essays in the fifth grade should be concise, clear and flow easily. Students need to be able to express their ideas with proper and effective word choice and use a variety of different sentence structures. Logical sequencing of main ideas should be evident throughout the essay. In the fifth grade, students learn to expand and elaborate on their ideas. They are describing and going more in-depth in their writing than in previous grades. Fifth-grade students are exposed to different styles and genres of writing, so their writing will begin to reflect the varied structures and purposes of writing.

Decide on an essay topic. Your teacher may provide an essay topic to explore or you may be able to come up with an idea of your own. Either way, you can decide from what angle you want to approach the topic. Keep the topic focused and narrow. The essay's information should fit easily within the length of the essay assigned by your teacher. Write down various ideas that occur to you as you prepare to write the essay. You can use a graphic organizer such as a cluster map of your thoughts or brainstorming to help you organize your ideas.

Write a thesis statement. The thesis statement is the main idea of the essay and it expresses what you want to tell the reader in one or two sentences.

Research the topic. Keep research within the bounds of the essay's topic so you don't waste time searching for and reading unnecessary material. Take notes of what is important and supports the thesis statement. Also keep track of where each piece of information is found so you can easily cite your sources if the teacher requires it.

Plan the essay. Write an outline that lists each section of the essay, including an introduction, middle and a conclusion. Paragraphs that support the thesis will be in the middle of the essay.

Write a first draft of the essay. The introduction should catch the readers' attention and contain the thesis statement. The middle will contain the information you found and your ideas about it. The conclusion should summarize your main points and tell readers why the topic is important. For example, if you're writing about the history of the Sputnik satellite launch in 1957, you could state in the conclusion that Sputnik helped to begin the space race between the former Soviet Union and the United States and it helped pave the way for the building of the International Space Station that is shared between the two countries today.

Look over your essay and make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes. Also pay close attention to how the essay is structured. Each paragraph should contain sentences that express the main idea of the paragraph. The paragraphs in the body should be arranged in a logical order, such as from least to most important or in a step-by-step order if you're writing a how-to essay. Make any changes you think are needed to make your essay clearer and then write out your final version when you are satisfied with it.

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Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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Help your 5th Grader Write a Great Essay

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Writing essays can be a daunting task for students. 5th-grade students have a strong foundation of writing skills to help them construct body paragraphs and express their ideas using complex sentences. Still, they may need an extra push to write confidently and expressively.

The most challenging task when writing an essay is starting the writing process and learning to be confident.

Helping students tackle the task and build their confidence in writing multiple types of essays such as a persuasive essay, an informational essay, or even a narrative essay such as short stories takes a lot of practice, focus, and support from instructors and parents.

Learning to Express Ideas

Pre-writing is a crucial step in the writing process. Fifth graders should be in a place in their writing journey where they can perfect all the pre-writing strategies before they even write a word of an essay.

This will set them up to successfully construct excellent five-paragraph essays consistently.

When your child sits down to write a five body paragraph essay, the very first thing they should do is read the prompt. Understanding what the prompt is asking for is the first step in being proactive about writing an excellent essay.

You want them to ponder these questions: am I writing a persuasive essay? Am I writing an essay on a topic requiring me to do my research? Will I need to list evidence? Am I writing a narrative story that requires figurative language?

How to Successfully Brainstorm An Essay

One excellent way to get the brainstorm rolling is to have your fifth-grade student utilize a graphic organizer such as a cluster map as a way to write down all the related words or small phrases they can think of about the prompt.

The organizer will help get their creative minds rolling until they write something they are interested in or perhaps even excited about exploring further.

Brainstorming is a crucial component of teaching writing. This first step should be the most relaxed, no-pressure section for the student.

As a fifth-grader, your child will have a good idea of how to brainstorm different ideas on paper, but an essential part will be to organize these ideas into something of an outline.

Through brainstorming, students learn to think creatively to answer the prompt. Sometimes logical thinking is also required. For example, with a persuasive essay, students must brainstorm their arguments and develop reasons or evidence to back up their claims.

Supporting this step will allow students to perfect the details of the content they’re writing about and give them the main idea for their entire essay.

How to Turn a Brainstorm into an Outline

Encouraging your fifth grader to write a quick outline in a way that’s organized according to the five-paragraph essay format will give them a solid foundation to write their first rough draft.

These pre-writing skills are crucial in turning students from simple sentence writers into detailed five-paragraph essay writers.

Five-paragraph essays are the standard way to construct an essay, including writing an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Using this format, your fifth grader should write a short and straightforward outline that showcases every paragraph’s main ideas and contents in logical order.

Instead of freewriting the essay off the top of their head, an outline in the five-paragraph essay format will help your fifth grader have a guide to help them construct the first draft of their essay and flesh out ideas when they write body paragraphs.

Constructing a 5 Paragraph Essay

Read below for a brief five-paragraph essay instructional unit to help you guide your child in writing an exceptional essay.

1) How To Write An Introduction

In the five-paragraph essay format, the introduction is vital in grabbing the reader’s attention and holding it throughout the essay.

When teaching writing, the introduction is explained as the initial place to set up the topic of the essay. It usually requires a direct address of the contents to follow in the form of a thesis.

A thesis statement is a sentence in the introduction that directly answers the prompt and has reasons and evidence for the writer’s claim. It’s like a short preview of what the students will write about in their body paragraphs.

Furthermore, students write the thesis at the end of the introduction paragraph and ensure it follows a specific sentence structure to make it stand out as the most critical part of the intro.

2) How To Write Body Paragraphs

An excellent way to help students be confident in their work is to help them build clear strategies or steps to tackle daunting parts of an essay, such as a body paragraph.

Acronyms are one good way to remember all the steps of constructing a remarkable body paragraph. For example, TEEA is a wonderful acronym to get your fifth grader started on the task.

TEEA stands for:

T: Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is the very first sentence of a body paragraph. It explains what your section is about and its main idea. Ideally, this should be one sentence long and directly explain the topic at hand.

For the second section, you will want your fifth grader to answer the following question: WHY are you talking about this topic or idea? Why is this important? This should be about 2 or 3 sentences long because you will want your child to use lots of details to support the idea in the topic sentence.

  E: Example

In the third section, the student should prove what they explained about their topic by giving a solid, real-life example. This can be 2-3 sentences. The key here is to make the example applicable to the topic and explanation.

A: Analysis

Lastly, the analysis explains how the example supports your topic. This will probably be 1 or 2 sentences.

The analysis is the most tricky part of a body paragraph. The best way to get your child to think about this is to emphasize the how question. How does your example prove you are right? How does the example relate to the topic?

Using TEEA, your child will be able to construct a clear and strong body paragraph for almost any prompt or topic.

3) How to Write A Conclusion

Lastly, to conclude an essay, students must think about what idea they want the reader to leave with after reading their essay.

To start, students can use their introductory paragraph as a guide. They should restate their essay topic or thesis differently.

Next, students should summarize the main points made in the body paragraphs.

After this step, students can play the “so what?” game. Have your fifth grader think about what they’ve written in the conclusion, then answer the question, “so what?” Why is this important? Why should anybody care?

The very last sentence of the conclusion is a fantastic place to answer the “so what” question and leave the readers with a good impression or the desire for more information.

Using this instructional guide, with practice, your 5th grader will be able to construct logically sound and impeccably organized essays in no time.

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

The Reading Ranch Method

Struggling writers can experience various difficulties in any step of the writing process. The Reading Ranch Intervention Program is a research-based program to help students strengthen their writing skills in an interactive and dynamic environment. Our curriculum prides itself on being an interactive writing curriculum proven through various studies to immensely help struggling writers. Contact us today if you’re looking for help with your child who struggles in school and at home because they are stuck when they write and unable to keep up with their peers. We offer either online or in-person programs we feel confident we have something just right for every family.

Kiran Gokal   is a freelance writer, teacher, and lover of the written word specializing in content articles, blog posts, and marketing copywriting. For the past three years, she’s been teaching bright young students all about reading and writing at The Reading Ranch®,  while also lending her writing skills to different businesses and non-profits in the education sector.

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Upper Elementary Teaching Blog

February 5, 2017 | 37 Comments | Filed Under: Writing & Grammar

How to Teach Writing in 5th Grade

Let’s be real for a moment. During my first year teaching I did a terrible, horrible, rotten job at teaching writing. My students (3rd graders at the time) were not assessed on writing, and I really didn’t know how to teach writing at that point in my career (especially since my students seriously struggled with all things literacy when they came to me).

I remember teaching it and having some fun lessons that I am sure helped the students a little. But mostly, we just aimlessly read read alouds, wrote to prompts, and shared our writing. I “did” all the right things but I didn’t do them very purposefully or effectively. I honestly feel like I should write a formal apology to my first group of students.

Fast forward a few years and a grade level change, and I finally feel like I have a handle on teaching writing. I am super purposeful and everything I do now has a reason behind it. Though my instruction is still not perfect (is anything in teaching ever perfect?), I feel much more confident that I am growing my students as writers and helping them to love writing.

In this post, I want to share how I teach writing in 5th grade (very applicable to 3rd and 4th grade as well).

Want to take a peek at how others teachers teach writing? This post details exactly how one teacher teaches writing in 5th grade using a writing workshop model.

I spend approximately 9 weeks on each main genre of writing (narrative, persuasive, and informational/expository).  I teach the writing genres in this order: personal narrative, fictional narrative, persuasive, how-to informational, compare and contrast, descriptive/explanatory informational.

Want to take a peek at how others teachers teach writing? This post details exactly how one teacher teaches writing in 5th grade using a writing workshop model.

Closer Look at Each 9 Weeks

Now, let’s take a closer look at what each of those 9 weeks would look like:

Two Weeks Explicitly Teaching Genre

I spend the first two weeks of my pacing explicitly teaching the aspects of the genre we are studying and writer’s craft as it relates to the genre we are studying. We do this by reading mentor texts and making charts about what we notice the author does well. These noticings then turn into mini-lessons. You can read more about how I come up with writing mini-lessons (and the three types of mini-lessons) by clicking here .

During these two weeks, the students are writing their first essays in this genre, but it is very guided. For example, we would read mentor texts to look for good beginnings, then we create a chart of good beginnings, then we choose a writing topic from our lists (read more about that here ), and practice writing good beginnings. I may have the students write 2-3 beginnings, then chose their favorite. We also spend a lot of time sharing during this time so the students can apply what they are learning and hear lots of examples from their peers.

Three W eeks of Writing Based on Lists and Specific Lessons Based on Students’ Writing  

After we have learned and applied all the strategies for a genre to one piece of writing, we are ready to try out some more. In this three week period, the students choose more topics from their lists to write about.

As the students are writing, they are referring to charts and examples from our previous mini-lessons to help them apply what they have learned. I also do a lot of conferences during this time, but mostly lean-in conferences because I want the students writing and trying out the new strategies.

The mini-lessons during this time frame are very specific to the students’ writing. While I am completing my lean-conferences, I jot down notes of struggles and strengths. At this point in the instruction, I am writing notes about conventions and mechanics for future mini-lessons, but my main focus is on the writer’s craft and getting the students to write and try out the genre.

At this point, it is also clear which students need extensive re-teaching. About 2-3 times a week, I pull small groups for re-teaching. However, I typically only pull the students who are seriously struggling at this point in instruction.

Three Weeks of Writing to On-Demand Prompts

At this point in our pacing, I have taught a lot of writing craft skills, and the students have several essays, applying what they have learned (usually 3-5 essays by this point). Now, it is time to get into perfecting their conventions and practicing on demand prompts .

The lessons during this three week period are very mini and focus mostly on conventions and mechanics. These lessons come from what I see as a need during my lean-in conferences and what I know will help move my students beyond their current writing (varying sentence lengths, using complex sentences, using introductory phrases, etc).

Also during this time, we typically have a longer share time, so the students can hear each other’s writing, give and get feedback, and learn even more writing strategies to use in their own writing.

As I mentioned above, this time is also spent primarily writing to on-demand prompts. These can be a simple prompt, a prompt that also uses a text stimulus (or paired text stimulus), or a prompt in response to a mentor text. This three week period is important because the students learn to write about topics that are not their choosing and they learn to stay on topic and follow the expectations of a prompt (which I explicitly teach them). However, I don’t recommend writing to prompts all the time because it doesn’t promote a love of writing with most students.

Remember how I said I did mostly lean-in conferences in the above section? Well, at this point, I have enough data to group my students into small groups for re-teaching or extension lessons. During independent writing time, I regularly pull small groups (about 1-2 a day) for reteaching. I also mix in independent conferences as well, as needed.

One Week of Publishing

For our final week in a genre, my students choose their favorite piece, meet with me for an independent conference and a final revise and edit, and then type it. We only publish (by typing) one story in each genre. However, we revise and edit every piece that we write. Ultimately, the students decide which of their essays are worth publishing. This essay is also taken as a final grade.

…………..

By the end of the 9-week period, my students have usually written around 6-8 essays in that genre. My expectation is an essay per week, and I do have them turn them in. I use these essays (along with my conferences) to guide my mini-lessons and reteaching groups.

Here is a recap of each 9-Week Period:

Want to take a peek at how others teachers teach writing? This post details exactly how one teacher teaches writing in 5th grade using a writing workshop model.

Note : I do modify this a bit for informational writing since I explicitly teach how-to writing, compare and contrast writing, and then explanatory/descriptive informational writing separately and then together.

What Does a Typical Writing Lesson Look Like?

The total time I have for writing is 60 minutes (I will share a modified schedule for 30 and 45 minutes, too). Here is how I typically segment my writing time. However, from reading the above section, you will notice that sometimes mini-lessons or share times are shorter or longer, depending on where we are in our pacing.

  • 15-20 minute mini lesson
  • 30-40 minutes for independent writing and conferences/ small groups
  • 5 minutes for closing, sharing, and reflecting

Modified Schedule for 45 Minutes

  • 15 minute mini-lesson
  • 25 minutes for independent writing and conferences/small groups

Modified Schedule for 30 Minutes

For 30 minutes, I recommend more of an A/B type schedule. Something like this:

A Schedule: – 15 mini-lesson and 15 minutes of independent writing where the students are directly applying the strategy to their writing

B Schedule: 20 minutes independent writing (continued from Monday) and conferences and 10 minutes for closing and sharing

Monday : A Schedule Tuesday : B Schedule Wednesday : A Schedule Thursday : B Schedule

Friday : Whichever schedule you need to meet the needs of your students. I have found that it is better to end the week with more independent writing to apply all they have learned. Likewise, I prefer to begin the week with the mini-lesson.

Materials I Use to Teach Writing

  • Mentor texts- For mentor texts, I use tradebooks (picture books and excerpts from longer works), released exemplars from state assessment, student stories (shared with permission), and teacher-written stories. You can read how I used one mentor text during my persuasive writing unit by clicking here .
  • Anchor charts – As a class, we create anchor charts for almost every writing mini-lesson I teach. Those anchor charts then provide an anchor for the students while they are writing. Want to see charts that I used to guide some my persuasive writing mini lessons? Click here to go straight to the post .
  • Student reference charts – My students use their writing notebooks to keep their writing lists and to keep reference charts for almost every lesson that I teach. We create an anchor chart together and then I give the students a printable copy of the chart that is already made or that I make after the fact. These charts are glued into their writing notebook and they refer to them regularly as they write.
  • Sentence stems -Most of my students are nowhere near proficient writers when they come to me. One way that I support my students is through sentence stems. Based on the needs of my students, I may provide sentence stems for beginnings, adding more details, using transitional phrases, or conclusions. The best part is that the stems give the students much needed confidence in their writing. As they become more confident, they will move away from using the sentence stems and create more original and unique sentences.

What About Early Finishers?

Since I use a workshop model and the students work through the writing process primarily at their own pace, I do need to have expectations and procedures in place for early finishers. Here are the three different procedures I have put in place over the years for my students who finish a writing piece early:

1. The easiest one is already embedded in my instruction: the students choose another writing topic from the list of topics we generate at the beginning of a new genre.

2. The other option is to request a peer conference with another student who is already finished. If you choose this, you need to have a clear procedure in my place for finding or requesting a student, what to do if no one is ready to hold a peer conference with you, and you need to explicitly teach the students how to hold peer conferences.

3. For some students, they need a bit more structure when it comes to choosing an “early finisher” activity.  This is where my writing choice boards come in. I have one choice board per genre that I teach. As we learn about a genre, I print the choice board and place it on a ring. Over time, the ring will have several choice boards. Early finishers may grab a ring of boards (I make about 5-6) and choose any prompt from any of the choice boards.

Writing choice boards are a great way to get students about writing. Click through to read more about these choice boards and other ways to get your students to love writing.

These writing choice boards are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store. The resource includes 7 writing choice boards in all! Click here to see them now.

Preparing for Writing Assessments

The question I always get is: How do you use a workshop model and still prepare your students for very “unworkshop” like writing assessments? The answer is that I embed it throughout in an authentic way.  Let’s take a look at an example:

My students are expected to write essays in response to two texts. So, when my students are learning how to write compare and contrast essays, we pull up information, articles, and read alouds for them to integrate their information from. This is authentically preparing them for the writing assessment in a way that still engages them in the writing.

Here is another example:

While we are writing persuasive essays, we may read two articles from two different perspectives on the topic we are writing. Then we will use those articles (and our own reasons and experiences) to craft a persuasive argument. But I never do it in a this is “test prep” way. I always try to authentically and naturally introduce the text as a way to support and strengthen our writing-this makes a HUGE difference with the students’ mindset.

Another way that I prepare my students is by taking the last nine weeks of my pacing (or 6 weeks if the writing test falls sooner) to review and practice all three genres of writing together. I think it is very important that the students are exposed to writing in all three genres together and not just in isolation. This helps solidify the differences among the three types. A resource I use to jump-start my review of all three main types of writing is my Writing Test Prep Resource.

Want to take a peek at how others teachers teach writing? This post details exactly how one teacher teaches writing in 5th grade using a writing workshop model.

This resource has sorts, prompts, practice printables, teaching posters, and more. It is a great way to review all three genres of writing and teach students how to analyze and respond to writing prompts. I use this resource at the beginning of my  last nine weeks of instruction. It lasts about a week to go through the resources and review all the genres.

Want to take a peek at how others teachers teach writing? This post details exactly how one teacher teaches writing in 5th grade using a writing workshop model.

After using that resource , we move into more rigorous text stimulus writing (as required by my state assessment). However, because I have embedded this type of writing in my instruction all year, this is nothing the students haven’t already seen or done.  The activities from the Writing Test Prep Resource then go into a test prep writing centers to continue reviewing before the day of the test.

I plan to write another blog post about preparing your students for writing assessments all year (and in authentic, engaging ways). Stay tuned for that!

Is how you teach writing similar or very different from how I teach? I would love to hear your thoughts on writing instruction. Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Do you want to see how I teach reading? Click here to read a detailed post that breaks down how I teach reading in 5th grade.

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

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This post shares practical and realistic tips to help teachers get students excited about writing and enjoying it. Must read for writing teachers!

Reader Interactions

37 comments.

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February 9, 2017 at 10:42 am

Thanks for this post! It is great to get a look behind the curtain into the way other teachers teach writing. Lots of schools are rolling out blanket approaches now and I really think it is best to leave it to the person that knows the class best – the teacher!

That said it helps no end to learn about other people’s practice.

Love your blog 🙂

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February 13, 2017 at 8:52 pm

Thank you for your kind words! Yes, it is great to have choice and to see how other teachers teach. I am always saddened when I hear that so many teachers don’t have the choice to do what they know is best for their students.

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February 16, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Thanks for sharing! It’s great to see what strategies and procedures other teachers are using in order to enhance what I’m doing with my students.

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February 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Hey I love this idea, what’s the best way or resource you have to get started!

February 19, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Hi Michelle, I am working on a resource for launching writers workshop, but it won’t be ready until next school year. Until then, I recommend Fountas and Pinnell Guiding Readers and Writers, which is where my philosophy and instruction is grounded.

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August 2, 2023 at 11:11 pm

Hi! Is a resource available?

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March 25, 2017 at 10:50 pm

I feel as if you are an answer to prayers, as a first year teacher of 5th grade, my writing instruction has not been successful as far as I can tell. I am nervous to the writing assessment, but I now have hope that I can make some changes and improve my teaching. Thank you for sharing your craft.

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March 30, 2017 at 10:42 pm

I definitely agree with your writing pacing. I like that you spend nine weeks on one genre. That makes total sense to me! My district requires us to teach all three genres, narrative, opinion, and informational, all in one trimester. There is just not enough time to really focus on one genre. I also agree that it is so important to use students’ own writing to guide instruction through mini-lessons. I’ve found this to be very valuable in my classroom.

April 1, 2017 at 11:09 am

So glad you found this helpful, Meghan!

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July 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Just a quick question- I loooove this format for teaching writing but just have a couple questions. How do you start the year? Do you just jump right in with narrative the first week, or do you teach any of the 6 traits? Or anything similar? Just curious how you map out the first few weeks with writing. Thanks!

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July 22, 2017 at 11:34 pm

This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing your craft. Do you implement 6 + 1 writing traits at all? Or do you just do it without calling them that?

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August 20, 2017 at 7:52 pm

I have been teaching Lower Elementary for 17 years and am in my first year as a 5th grade teacher. The team I have joined has not been teaching writing and my background is writer’s workshop. This is a big help in figuring out how to implement Writer’s Workshop into my day since I’m going it alone.

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August 21, 2017 at 12:24 pm

I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for this. I have been struggling with writing instruction (last year was not good) and I have been searching for a post like this to help breakdown the workshop model. Thank you again for posting it! You are amazing.

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July 22, 2018 at 7:53 pm

My sentiments exactly!!!!

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August 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Hi!! First year 5th grade teacher but 13th year teacher. I can’ wait to really dive into this and read what great ideas you have!! My district uses a series and it lacks in some areas. I had a question about where you find inspiration for your mentor texts? Thanks

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September 15, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Thank you so much for sharing a modified schedule for 30 minutes!!!

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September 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Thank you for this post. I will take away much to break it in to smaller pieces for better organized conferences. I am curious though, what is a reasonable essay length to expect from a student? I would like to set a standard for a minimum on paper writing/typing page or word count for beginning year and end of year expectations. Maybe you have some reasonable amount you have expected for their age/grade level in each session and assessment? Some are gifted and can explain in detail their story, but putting into written form tends to stop up the creativity in my experience for a few.

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October 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Where do you get ideas for the on demand prompts that you use the last 3 weeks of the units? Thanks!

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November 14, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Thank you for this post! I just found your website, and have really enjoyed reading how you teach all your classes! I am new to 5th grade this year, and struggling to fit everything in. I work at a bilingual school, and I get one hour of English Literacy every day. In that time I am suppose to cover reading, writing, grammar, and spelling. Do you have any suggestions on how to divide the time?

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September 15, 2021 at 7:59 pm

I have that same questions. We are on a 9 period – 6 day rotation schedule with 2 groups we see ( AM and PM). Some days I see the kiddos for 80 mins and other days it could 120. Within that time frame some of those 80 min days its split. For example I have them for period 6 for 40 mins but don’t get them back until period 8 for another 40 mins. Any ideas on how to fit grammar, reading workshop, and writing workshop in would be HUGE! Thank you for your help.

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May 22, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Sister thanks for this sincere post you helped show me how to take responsibility for my teaching. I teach writing under some difficult situations 40 mins weekly. It started out as a special storytime/ shared reading/ read Aloud but and now creative writing. I have struggled for 4yrs and recently the Lord helped me to approach writing using Persuasive, narrative and expository. What about poetry? It gets confusing but reading your post helped out with some perspectives. God bless you dear.

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July 16, 2018 at 8:32 pm

Thank you so much for these tips and guides. I have been struggling to teach writing for five years now, especially with the way they expect students to cite text, use it appropriately and almost perfectly during their testing. Unfortunately at my school and most schools in my county writing is not taught until students get to fourth grade, where it is tested. In addition, the state does not release any mentor texts, only from the sampling year, which district personnel tell you to ignore as they are not good examples. I wanted to know where do you gather your mentor texts from? I love the idea of students learning from the other writers, but I don’t know where to find these resources. I would greatly appreciate any of your assistance. Thank you!

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November 11, 2018 at 7:53 pm

How would you differentiate for Learning Support Students in a 3rd Grade that can’t write a sentence independently?

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January 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

I found this so helpful! Although I’ve taught for a number of years this is my first year teaching grade 5 writing. It was reassuring seeing your outline of the different genres of writing. We’ve done narrative and fictional writing so far. This gives me direction for the new year – persuasive writing. The links for anchor charts and mini lessons are so helpful – thank-you so much! I’m feeling inspired and excited to start up again after the break!

January 6, 2019 at 9:52 pm

Hi Jen, I am so glad you found this helpful! Thank you for your kind message!

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May 11, 2019 at 10:21 am

Thank you! This is very helpful! I teach 5th grade writing (and only writing-our students rotate and another teacher teaches reading) and started halfway through the school year. We just got a new writing “program” called SRSD for informational writing, and I really like it, but it’s more of a method of writing than a paced program, so this is really helpful for determining how much time to spend on each part. I have very limited resources currently for mentor texts, but use a lot of articles from Newsela- they have lots of articles on various topics and you can change the lexile level, which is really helpful! Since I don’t teach reading but all of our informational writing is based on texts, this has been a great resource!

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August 30, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Hi! I am absolutely in love with your resources. They have helped me tremendously! I was curious if you had resources similar to the reading/grammar resources for writing?

September 8, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Hi Brooke, I don’t for writing. For 5th grade language, I do have some resources which you can see here:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Jennifer-Findley/Category/ELAR-Language-Resources-88773

Thanks for asking!

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March 3, 2020 at 12:20 pm

HI there. I have been using a lot of your resources for ELA during this school year and decided to research how you teach writing. I have never been a very strong writing teacher and realize that I am doing my students a disservice in this area.

I need some ideas on how to do an effective writing review in 5 weeks time to prepare the students for the state assessment, which is at the end of April. Mind you, I have not been teaching writing as effectively as you have during the year. I currently have a 90 minute ELA block which includes reading, writing, grammar, etc. I think I may only be able to do 30, maybe 45 minutes per day.

What do you recommend? Feel free to email me your response if you would like.

Thanks so much!

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September 30, 2020 at 6:11 am

This article is EVERYTHING right know! I am currently teaching 4th Grade ELAR as a first year teacher, I am struggling to teach writing well! My student are all very low, and struggling to provide good writing- do you have any tips? Thanks for all writing this?

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March 10, 2021 at 10:49 am

I love every one of your resources and they have been a huge hit in my classroom. We have totally adopted your math centers and resources while I was departmentalized so I am eager to add in ELA when we go back to self-contained with our fifth graders. I would love to hear about how you organize the ELA instruction for students – how many notebooks, folders, what they are called, what gets turned in daily, weekly, how many and which ELA grades are weekly and which ones are final project grades. Love how real you are. Any attempt to add structure to this crazy ride of education is so greatly appreciated

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April 25, 2021 at 2:54 am

Hi Jennifer, I was happy to come across your Anchor Charts for persuasive essay on your website when searching on how to teach my son to write a persuasive essay. I would love to have your anchor charts for narrative and informative writings. Do you have a digital package I can purchase where you have the anchor charts information all together to help out homeschooling moms by any chance? Thank you.

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June 5, 2021 at 7:52 am

Love your resources and posts. Thank you! How do you balance reading and writing lessons? Through a week or another time period, what’s your schedule for when you teach writing and when you teach reading? Hoe do you successfully plan for both?

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August 4, 2021 at 8:36 am

Excellent information!- I am a tutor and was trying to gauge my pace with what typically happens in schools- I do not think you are typical- you are a 99%ile teacher I can tell- but still extremely helpful. Thank you so much!!!

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November 7, 2023 at 9:09 am

Not sure how much you read this post these days, but I wanted to put a question out there anyway. I am a fifth-grade teacher at a hybrid school. We plan lessons for 5 days but teach in our classrooms on M-W-F only. Parents teach at home T-TH. This has its own unique challenges. But teaching writing is the bane of my existence. We are forced to use a program called IEW. I hate it! Kids who have been on the program are some of our worst writers. But I have to use it. Have you ever heard of it? What we have is really not a curriculum either. So it leaves me pulling my hair out most days. Any advice on teaching writing when you are getting to teach 5 days?

November 7, 2023 at 10:33 am

I haven’t heard of that program, but that does sound so difficult! How are your students assessed in writing? Are they writing just to prompts or in response to texts? Feel free to send me an email to jennifer @ jenniferfindley.com (no spaces)!

November 9, 2023 at 7:16 am

Thank you so much!!

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Welcome friends! I’m Jennifer Findley: a teacher, mother, and avid reader. I believe that with the right resources, mindset, and strategies, all students can achieve at high levels and learn to love learning. My goal is to provide resources and strategies to inspire you and help make this belief a reality for your students. Learn more about me.

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How to Write A 5th Grade Level Essay

5th grade writing

There are four basic types of prompts for fifth grade students: narrative, persuasive, expository, and creative writing. 

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay requires them to tell a story, real or imagined, using descriptive writing to reflect on their experiences, explain them logically, and draw conclusions from them. The writing prompt will be something like this: Think about a time you did something that made you feel guilty. Describe what happened.

To answer this, your child will have to tell the story of a time they did something wrong and what the consequences were. They will likely make use of the “five senses” and discuss how they felt moment-to-moment as they describe the events. Dialogue is an important part of this, too; they may describe the conversation they had with their teacher or with you, confessing what they did and apologizing.

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay is written to convince another person to agree with the writer or take action. The prompt will look something like this: What is your least-favorite food at the school cafeteria? Give three compelling reasons why your school should quit serving it. To answer this, your child needs to make sure to have three logical and persuasive reasons for why whatever food they choose is bad.

For example, they may hate the green beans they are given. The reasons they give don’t have to be particularly nuanced, but should still be realistic and logical. Their reasons may be that they are canned and therefore aren’t as nutritious as fresh, they are overcooked, and they make everyone’s breath smell bad. Their essay should also make a case for a replacement or better idea, such as serving fresh green beans or different vegetable options.

Expository Essay

An expository essay requires your child to explain something, like a how-to guide or providing facts about a topic. This essay prompt will look something like this: Your favorite book was made into a movie. Compare and contrast the film and book versions. To answer this, your child will need to point out the differences and similarities between the two works.

For example, the movie may have cut out a lot of scenes from the book or added new ones. Characters may dress differently or say different dialogue in the movie, or they may be perfect representations of how they look in the book. There shouldn’t be a list of similarities and differences; instead, your child should organize these comparisons in paragraphs that have a logical flow. For example, they may start by going through differences in the events of the two works and how the movie improves on certain plots, then discuss character differences and how they are better in the book, and finish with their ideas about which version tells the story better.

Creative Writing

Creative writing has your child use their story-telling skills while also practicing vital writing skills such as sequence and description. A creative writing prompt can look something like this: Write a story from your pet’s point of view. A creative writing prompt requires your child to consider things from a different perspective, and they may even write a poem or song instead of an essay, depending on their assignment.

To answer this prompt, they will need to consider what the world looks, sounds, and feels like from a very different view. It doesn’t have to be a perfect narrative, it can be the pet’s ideas and feelings about their life and how they feel about your child. Creative writing prompts are an opportunity for your child to stretch their imagination and try out different things in their writing.

If your child is having a hard time with these prompts, a way to help is to enroll them in Reading Genie. The program is designed to give your child practice writing while engaging them in fun topics and ideas. The teachers at Reading Genie give helpful and kind advice, and your child will have opportunities to get feedback from their peers to build their confidence.

You can also practice writing prompts with your child at home; they can be a lot of fun! Even if you don’t end up writing anything, discussing ideas with your child and how to approach certain prompts and questions can help get their minds active.

Genie Academy offers a range of after-school programs focused on enhancing skills in mathematics, literacy, composition, and coding. These educational services are available at various sites across New Jersey, such as Plainsboro , and are designed to cater to the learning needs of children from Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade.

Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/fifth-grade-writing-prompts-4171627

Topics: Essay , Writing Skills , Fifth Grade , paragraph writing , Writing Prompt

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  • How long is an essay? Guidelines for different types of essay

How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

Published on January 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper  or thesis .

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

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Table of contents

Essay length guidelines, how long is each part of an essay, using length as a guide to topic and complexity, can i go under the suggested length, can i go over the suggested length, other interesting articles, here's why students love scribbr's proofreading services.

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In an academic essay, the main body should always take up the most space. This is where you make your arguments, give your evidence, and develop your ideas.

The introduction should be proportional to the essay’s length. In an essay under 3000 words, the introduction is usually just one paragraph. In longer and more complex essays, you might need to lay out the background and introduce your argument over two or three paragraphs.

The conclusion of an essay is often a single paragraph, even in longer essays. It doesn’t have to summarize every step of your essay, but should tie together your main points in a concise, convincing way.

The suggested word count doesn’t only tell you how long your essay should be – it also helps you work out how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This should guide the development of your thesis statement , which identifies the main topic of your essay and sets the boundaries of your overall argument.

A short essay will need a focused, specific topic and a clear, straightforward line of argument. A longer essay should still be focused, but it might call for a broader approach to the topic or a more complex, ambitious argument.

As you make an outline of your essay , make sure you have a clear idea of how much evidence, detail and argumentation will be needed to support your thesis. If you find that you don’t have enough ideas to fill out the word count, or that you need more space to make a convincing case, then consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific.

The length of the essay also influences how much time you will need to spend on editing and proofreading .

You should always aim to meet the minimum length given in your assignment. If you are struggling to reach the word count:

  • Add more evidence and examples to each paragraph to clarify or strengthen your points.
  • Make sure you have fully explained or analyzed each example, and try to develop your points in more detail.
  • Address a different aspect of your topic in a new paragraph. This might involve revising your thesis statement to make a more ambitious argument.
  • Don’t use filler. Adding unnecessary words or complicated sentences will make your essay weaker and your argument less clear.
  • Don’t fixate on an exact number. Your marker probably won’t care about 50 or 100 words – it’s more important that your argument is convincing and adequately developed for an essay of the suggested length.

In some cases, you are allowed to exceed the upper word limit by 10% – so for an assignment of 2500–3000 words, you could write an absolute maximum of 3300 words. However, the rules depend on your course and institution, so always check with your instructor if you’re unsure.

Only exceed the word count if it’s really necessary to complete your argument. Longer essays take longer to grade, so avoid annoying your marker with extra work! If you are struggling to edit down:

  • Check that every paragraph is relevant to your argument, and cut out irrelevant or out-of-place information.
  • Make sure each paragraph focuses on one point and doesn’t meander.
  • Cut out filler words and make sure each sentence is clear, concise, and related to the paragraph’s point.
  • Don’t cut anything that is necessary to the logic of your argument. If you remove a paragraph, make sure to revise your transitions and fit all your points together.
  • Don’t sacrifice the introduction or conclusion . These paragraphs are crucial to an effective essay –make sure you leave enough space to thoroughly introduce your topic and decisively wrap up your argument.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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McCombes, S. (2023, July 23). How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay. Scribbr. Retrieved February 20, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/length/

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How to write a perfect essay

Need to write an essay? Does the assignment feel as big as climbing Mount Everest? Fear not. You’re up to the challenge! The following step-by step tips from the Nat Geo Kids Almanac will help you with this monumental task. 

Sometimes the subject matter of your essay is assigned to you, sometimes it’s not. Either way, you have to decide what you want to say. Start by brainstorming some ideas, writing down any thoughts you have about the subject. Then read over everything you’ve come up with and consider which idea you think is the strongest. Ask yourself what you want to write about the most. Keep in mind the goal of your essay. Can you achieve the goal of the assignment with this topic? If so, you’re good to go.

WRITE A TOPIC SENTENCE

This is the main idea of your essay, a statement of your thoughts on the subject. Again, consider the goal of your essay. Think of the topic sentence as an introduction that tells your reader what the rest of your essay will be about.

OUTLINE YOUR IDEAS

Once you have a good topic sentence, you then need to support that main idea with more detailed information, facts, thoughts, and examples. These supporting points answer one question about your topic sentence—“Why?” This is where research and perhaps more brainstorming come in. Then organize these points in the way you think makes the most sense, probably in order of importance. Now you have an outline for your essay.

ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, WRITE!

Follow your outline, using each of your supporting points as the topic sentence of its own paragraph. Use descriptive words to get your ideas across to the reader. Go into detail, using specific information to tell your story or make your point. Stay on track, making sure that everything you include is somehow related to the main idea of your essay. Use transitions to make your writing flow.

Finish your essay with a conclusion that summarizes your entire essay and 5 restates your main idea.

PROOFREAD AND REVISE

Check for errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Look for ways to make your writing clear, understandable, and interesting. Use descriptive verbs, adjectives, or adverbs when possible. It also helps to have someone else read your work to point out things you might have missed. Then make the necessary corrections and changes in a second draft. Repeat this revision process once more to make your final draft as good as you can.

Download the pdf .

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5th and 6th Grade Written Book Report Instructions

Student instructions for writing a book report in fifth and sixth grade. Includes the number of paragraphs in the report and three or four things to include in each paragraph.

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

How to Teach Argument Writing Step-By-Step

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

No doubt, teaching argument writing to middle school students can be tricky. Even the word “argumentative” is off-putting, bringing to mind pointless bickering. But once I came up with argument writing lessons that were both fun and effective, I quickly saw the value in it. And so did my students.

You see, we teachers have an ace up our sleeve. It’s a known fact that from ages 11-14, kids love nothing more than to fire up a good ole battle royale with just about anybody within spitting distance.

Yup. So we’re going to use their powers of contradiction to OUR advantage by showing them how to use our argument writing lessons to power up their real-life persuasion skills. Your students will be knocking each other over in the hall to get to the room first!

I usually plan on taking about three weeks on the entire argument writing workshop. However, there are years when I’ve had to cut it down to two, and that works fine too.

Here are the step-by-step lessons I use to teach argument writing. It might be helpful to teachers who are new to teaching the argument, or to teachers who want to get back to the basics. If it seems formulaic, that’s because it is. In my experience, that’s the best way to get middle school students started.

Prior to Starting the Writer’s Workshop

A couple of weeks prior to starting your unit, assign some quick-write journal topics. I pick one current event topic a day, and I ask students to express their opinion about the topic.

Quick-writes get the kids thinking about what is going on in the world and makes choosing a topic easier later on.

Define Argumentative Writing

I’ll never forget the feeling of panic I had in 7th grade when my teacher told us to start writing an expository essay on snowstorms. How could I write an expository essay if I don’t even know what expository MEANS, I whined to my middle school self.

We can’t assume our students know or remember what argumentative writing is, even if we think they should know. So we have to tell them. Also, define claim and issue while you’re at it.

Establish Purpose

I always tell my students that learning to write an effective argument is key to learning critical thinking skills and is an important part of school AND real-life writing.

We start with a fictional scenario every kid in the history of kids can relate to.

ISSUE : a kid wants to stay up late to go to a party vs. AUDIENCE : the strict mom who likes to say no.

The “party” kid writes his mom a letter that starts with a thesis and a claim: I should be permitted to stay out late to attend the part for several reasons.

By going through this totally relatable scenario using a modified argumentative framework, I’m able to demonstrate the difference between persuasion and argument, the importance of data and factual evidence, and the value of a counterclaim and rebuttal.

Students love to debate whether or not strict mom should allow party kid to attend the party. More importantly, it’s a great way to introduce the art of the argument, because kids can see how they can use the skills to their personal advantage.

Persuasive Writing Differs From Argument Writing

At the middle school level, students need to understand persuasive and argument writing in a concrete way. Therefore, I keep it simple by explaining that both types of writing involve a claim. However, in persuasive writing, the supporting details are based on opinions, feelings, and emotions, while in argument writing the supporting details are based on researching factual evidence.

I give kids a few examples to see if they can tell the difference between argumentation and persuasion before we move on.

Argumentative Essay Terminology

In order to write a complete argumentative essay, students need to be familiar with some key terminology . Some teachers name the parts differently, so I try to give them more than one word if necessary:

  • thesis statement
  • bridge/warrant
  • counterclaim/counterargument*
  • turn-back/refutation

*If you follow Common Core Standards, the counterargument is not required for 6th-grade argument writing. All of the teachers in my school teach it anyway, and I’m thankful for that when the kids get to 7th grade.

Organizing the Argumentative Essay

I teach students how to write a step-by-step 5 paragraph argumentative essay consisting of the following:

  • Introduction : Includes a lead/hook, background information about the topic, and a thesis statement that includes the claim.
  • Body Paragraph #1 : Introduces the first reason that the claim is valid. Supports that reason with facts, examples, and/or data.
  • Body Paragraph #2 : The second reason the claim is valid. Supporting evidence as above.
  • Counterargument (Body Paragraph #3): Introduction of an opposing claim, then includes a turn-back to take the reader back to the original claim.
  • Conclusion : Restates the thesis statement, summarizes the main idea, and contains a strong concluding statement that might be a call to action.

Mentor Texts

If we want students to write a certain way, we should provide high-quality mentor texts that are exact models of what we expect them to write.

I know a lot of teachers will use picture books or editorials that present arguments for this, and I can get behind that. But only if specific exemplary essays are also used, and this is why.

If I want to learn Italian cooking, I’m not going to just watch the Romanos enjoy a holiday feast on Everybody Loves Raymond . I need to slow it down and follow every little step my girl Lidia Bastianich makes.

The same goes for teaching argument writing. If we want students to write 5 paragraph essays, that’s what we should show them.

In fact, don’t just display those mentor texts like a museum piece. Dissect the heck out of those essays. Pull them apart like a Thanksgiving turkey. Disassemble the essay sentence by sentence and have the kids label the parts and reassemble them. This is how they will learn how to structure their own writing.

Also, encourage your detectives to evaluate the evidence. Ask students to make note of how the authors use anecdotes, statistics, and facts. Have them evaluate the evidence and whether or not the writer fully analyzes it and connects it to the claim.

This is absolutely the best way for kids to understand the purpose of each part of the essay.

Research Time

Most of my students are not very experienced with performing research when we do this unit, so I ease them into it. (Our “big” research unit comes later in the year with our feature article unit .)

I start them off by showing this short video on how to find reliable sources. We use data collection sheets and our school library’s database for research. There are also some awesome, kid-friendly research sites listed on the Ask a Tech Teacher Blog .

Step-By-Step Drafting

The bedrock of drafting is to start with a solid graphic organizer. I have to differentiate for my writers, and I’ve found they have the most success when I offer three types of graphic organizers.

1- Least Support: This is your standard graphic organizer. It labels each paragraph and has a dedicated section for each part of the paragraph.

2- Moderate Support: This one has labels and sections, but also includes sentence stems for each sentence in the paragraph.

3- Most Support: This one has labels and sections and also includes fill-in-the-blank sentence frames . It’s perfect for my emerging writers, and as I’ve mentioned previously, students do NOT need the frames for long and soon become competent and independent writers.

Writing the Introduction

The introduction has three parts and purposes.

First, it has a hook or lead. While it should be about the topic, it shouldn’t state the writer’s position on the topic. I encourage students to start with a quote by a famous person, an unusual detail, a statistic, or a fact.

Kids will often try to start with a question, but I discourage that unless their question also includes one of the other strategies. Otherwise, I end up with 100 essays that start with, “Do you like sharks?” Lol

Next, it’s time to introduce the issue. This is the background information that readers need in order to understand the controversy.

Last, students should state the claim in the thesis statement. I call it a promise to the reader that the essay will deliver by proving that the claim is valid.

Writing the Supporting Body Paragraphs

Each supporting body paragraph should start with a topic sentence that introduces the idea and states the reason why the claim is valid. The following sentences in the paragraph should support that reason with facts, examples, data, or expert opinions. The bridge is the sentence that connects that piece of evidence to the argument’s claim. The concluding sentence should restate the reason.

Writing the Counterclaim Paragraph

The counterclaim paragraph is a very important aspect of argument writing. It’s where we introduce an opposing argument and then confidently take the reader back to the original argument. I tell students that it’s necessary to “get in the head” of the person who might not agree with their claim, by predicting their objections.

It can be tough for kids to “flip the switch” on their own argument, so I like to practice this a bit. I give them several pairs of transitions that go together to form a counterclaim and rebuttal. I also switch up what I call this part so that they use the terminology interchangeably.

  • It might seem that [ counterargument . ]However, [ turn-back .]
  • Opponents may argue that [ counterargument .] Nevertheless, [ turn back .]
  • A common argument against this position is [ counterargument .] Yet, [ turn-back .]

A great way for kids to practice this is to have them work with partners to write a few counterarguments together. I let them practice by giving them easy role-playing topics.

  • Your cousins want to jump into a poison ivy grove for a TikTok challenge. Choose your position on this and write a counterargument and turn-back.
  • Your friend wants to get a full-face tattoo of their boyfriend’s name. Choose your position on this and write a counterargument and turn-back.

This kind of practice makes the counterargument much more clear.

The concluding paragraph should remind the reader of what was argued in the essay and why it matters. It might also suggest solutions or further research that could be done on the topic. Or students can write a call to action that asks the reader to perform an action in regard to the information they’ve just learned.

My students write about local issues and then turn the essays into letters to our superintendent, school board, or state senators. It’s an amazing way to empower kids and to show them that their opinion matters. I’ve written about that here and I’ve included the sentence frames for the letters in my argumentative writing unit.

I hope this gives you a good overview of teaching argument writing. Please leave any questions below. Please also share your ideas, because we all need all the help we can give each other!

And one more thing. Don’t be surprised if parents start asking you to tone down the unit because it’s become harder to tell their kids why they can’t stay up late for parties. 🙂

Stay delicious!

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How to Help Fifth Graders Write an Introduction to a Research Paper

Kristine tucker, 26 sep 2017.

Research-paper introductions have specific goals.

Fifth-graders must learn the importance of the "wow factor" when writing introductions for their research papers. Some have worked on creative writing assignments, cause-and-effect papers and book reports, but research papers are a whole new ballgame. When helping children write introductions for research papers, encourage them to present their topic and goals in a concise manner but allow room for creativity. Remind them that the goal is to spur readers' interest in the topic, so they must grab their attention right off the bat.

Explore this article

  • Add A Creative Slice
  • Treasured Transitions
  • Practice Makes Perfect

1 Brainstorm

Encourage your students to brainstorm ideas for their introductions before they actually start writing. On a separate piece of paper, ask them to write down a dozen descriptive words or phrases that are very specific to their topics. For example, if a paper is about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they might write "early hours in the morning," "misinformed military officers," "no warning," "panic in the ocean," "Japanese attacks," or "sinking of the Arizona." They can use these key words to formulate sentences to introduce their research.

2 Add A Creative Slice

Research papers generally are designed to be informative, serious and well-organized, but there's nothing wrong with encouraging children to spruce up their introductions with a little creativity. They might start with a famous quote, create a vivid visual image or use an attention-grabbing fact to start their paper. For example, if a student is writing about the history of baseball, he might start with "Fenway Park in Boston is the oldest American League park still hosting games today." Follow-up sentences should briefly link the introductory sentence with the purpose of the paper.

3 Treasured Transitions

Some fifth-grade introductions are disjointed and lack coherent thought progressions. Help your students create a list of common transition words that help introductions flow more smoothly. Transition words are also useful on other types of writing assignments but are especially important on research papers to help students connect ideas, thoughts, statistical information, quotes, citations and facts. Words and phrases such as "in addition to," "also," "similarly," "on a similar note," "unsurprisingly," "as a result" and "consequently" help students tie their ideas, facts and sentences together.

4 Practice Makes Perfect

Fifth-graders must learn the value of first drafts, second drafts and final copies, so they can edit, rewrite, modify, change and adapt their research paper introductions as they go. Continued research might give students a new slant to their topics or provide additional introductory material that is fresh and exciting. Students aren't stuck with their original introductions, so encourage them to make amendments as they see fit. They might even re-draft their introductions after their papers are completely written so they can highlight special points. Allow students to read each other's introductions and make suggestions -- peer input is valuable.

  • 1 GreatSchools.org: Your Fifth Grader and Writing
  • 2 Education.com: Go Direct for Better Paragraphs
  • 3 Baseball Almanac: American League Ballparks

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay, With Outlines and an Example

Matt Ellis

A five-paragraph essay is a simple format for writing a complete essay, fitting the minimal components of an essay into just five paragraphs. Although it doesn’t have much breadth for complexity, the five-paragraph essay format is useful for helping students and academics structure basic papers.

If you’re having trouble writing , you can use the five-paragraph essay format as a guide or template. Below we discuss the fundamentals of the five-paragraph essay, explaining how to write one and what to include. 

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What is a five-paragraph essay? 

The five-paragraph essay format is a guide that helps writers structure an essay. It consists of one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs for support, and one concluding paragraph. Because of this structure, it has been nicknamed the “hamburger essay,” the “one-three-one essay,” and the “three-tier essay.” 

You won’t find too many five-paragraph essay examples in literature, simply because the format is too short. The five-paragraph essay format is more popular for educational assignments, such as school papers or quick writing exercises. Think of it as a writing tool to guide structure rather than an independent genre of essay. 

Part of the appeal of the five-paragraph essay format is that it can accommodate all types of essays . No matter your assignment, whether an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay , you can apply the structure of a five-paragraph essay to communicate clearly and logically, as long as your topic is simple enough to be covered in just five paragraphs .

How to start a five-paragraph essay

As with all essays, before you begin writing a five-paragraph essay, you first need to know your thesis, or main topic. Your thesis is the idea you will defend or expand upon, and ultimately what your entire essay is about, and the three paragraphs in the middle will support, prove, or elaborate on your thesis.

Naturally, you can’t begin writing until you know what you’re writing about. If your thesis is not provided in the assignment, choose one that has sufficient content for discussion, or at least enough to fill five paragraphs. 

Writers typically explain the thesis in the thesis statement , a sentence in the first paragraph that tells the reader what the essay is about. You don’t need to write this first, but phrasing the topic as a single sentence can help you to understand it, focus it, and revise it if needed. 

Once you’ve selected a topic, we recommend writing a quick essay outline so you know what information to include and in which paragraphs. Your five-paragraph essay outline is like a blueprint where you can perfect the order and structure of your essay beforehand to save time on editing later. 

How to transition between paragraphs

One of the biggest challenges in essay writing is transitioning from one paragraph to another. Good writing is seamless and fluid, so if your paragraph transitions are jarring or abrupt, readers will get distracted from the flow and lose momentum or even interest. 

The best way to move logically from one point to another is to create transition sentences using words or phrases like “however,” “similarly,” or “on the other hand.” Sometimes adding a single word to the beginning of a paragraph is enough to connect it to the preceding paragraph and keep the reader on track. You can find a full list of transition words and phrases here . 

Five-paragraph essay format

If you’re writing your five-paragraph essay outline—or if you’re diving right into the first draft—it helps to know what information to include in each paragraph. Just like in all prose writing, the basic components of your essay are its paragraphs . 

In five-paragraph essays, each paragraph has a unique role to play. Below we explain the goals for each specific paragraph and what to include in them. 

Introductory paragraph

The first paragraph is crucial. Not only does it set the tone of your entire essay, it also introduces the topic to the reader so they know what to expect. Luckily, many of the same suggestions for how to start an essay still apply to five-paragraph essays. 

First and foremost, your introductory paragraph should contain your thesis statement. This single sentence clearly communicates what the entire essay is about, including your opinion or argument, if it’s warranted. 

The thesis statement is often the first sentence, but feel free to move it back if you want to open with something more attention-grabbing, like a hook. In writing, a hook is something that attracts the reader’s interest, such as mystery, urgency, or good old-fashioned drama. 

Your introductory paragraph is also a good spot to include any background context for your topic. You should save the most significant information for the body paragraphs, but you can use the introduction to give basic information that your readers might not know. 

Finally, your introductory paragraph should touch on the individual points made in the subsequent paragraphs, similar to an outline. You don’t want to give too much away in the first paragraph, just a brief mention of what you’ll discuss. Save the details for the following paragraphs, where you’ll have room to elaborate. 

Body paragraphs

The three body paragraphs are the “meat” of your essay, where you describe details, share evidence, explain your reasoning, and otherwise advance your thesis. Each paragraph should be a separate and independent topic that supports your thesis. 

Start each paragraph with a topic sentence , which acts a bit like a thesis statement, except it describes the topic of only that paragraph. The topic sentence summarizes the point that the entire paragraph makes, but saves the details for the following sentences. Don’t be afraid to include a transition word or phrase in the topic sentence if the subject change from the previous paragraph is too drastic.

After the topic sentence, fill in the rest of the paragraph with the details. These could be persuasive arguments, empirical data, quotes from authoritative sources, or just logical reasoning. Be sure to avoid any sentences that are off-topic or tangential; five-paragraph essays are supposed to be concise, so include only the relevant details. 

Concluding paragraph

The final paragraph concludes the essay. You don’t want to add any new evidence or support in the last paragraph; instead, summarize the points from the previous paragraphs and tie them together. Here, the writer restates the thesis and reminds the reader of the points made in the three body paragraphs. 

If the goal of your essay is to convince the reader to do something, like donate to a cause or change their behavior, the concluding paragraph can also include a call to action. A call to action is a statement or request that explains clearly what the writer wants the reader to do. For example, if your topic is preventing forest fires, your call to action might be: “Remember to obey safety laws when camping.” 

The basic principles of how to write a conclusion for an essay apply to five-paragraph essays as well. For example, the final paragraph is a good time to explain why this topic matters or to add your own opinion. It also helps to end with a thought-provoking sentence, such as an open-ended question, to give your audience something to think about after reading. 

Five-paragraph essay example

Here’s a five-paragraph essay example, so you can better understand how they work. 

Capybaras make great pets, and the laws against owning them should be reconsidered. Capybaras are a dog-sized animal with coarse fur, native to eastern South America. They’re known across the internet as the friendliest animal on the planet, but there’s a lot of misinformation about them as pets. They’re considered an exotic animal, so a lot of legal restrictions prevent people from owning them as pets, but it’s time to reevaluate these laws. 

For one thing, capybaras are rodents—the largest rodents in the world, actually—and plenty of rodents are already normalized as pets. Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, both of which are popular pets, and more distantly related to mice and rats, another common type of pet. In nature, most rodents (including capybaras) are social animals and live in groups, which makes them accustomed to life as a pet. 

There are a lot of prevalent myths about capybaras that dissuade people from owning them, but most of these are unfounded. For example, people assume capybaras smell bad, but this is not true; their special fur actually resists odor. Another myth is that they’re messy, but in reality, capybaras don’t shed often and can even be litter-trained! One rumor based in truth is that they can be destructive and chew on their owners’ things, but so can dogs, and dogs are one of the most common pets we have. 

The one reasonable criticism for keeping capybaras as pets is that they are high-maintenance. Capybaras require lots of space to run around and are prone to separation anxiety if owners are gone most of the day. Moreover, capybaras are semi-aquatic, so it’s best for them to have a pool to swim in. However difficult these special conditions are to meet, they’re all still doable; as with all pets, the owners should simply commit to these prerequisites before getting one. 

All in all, the advantages of capybaras as pets outweigh the cons. As rodents, they’re social and trainable, and many of the deterrent myths about them are untrue. Even the extra maintenance they require is still manageable. If capybaras are illegal to own where you live, contact your local lawmakers and petition them to reconsider these laws. You’ll see first-hand just why the internet has fallen in love with this “friend-shaped” animal! 

In this example, you’ll notice a lot of the points we discussed earlier.

The first sentence in the first paragraph is our thesis statement, which explains what this essay is about and the writer’s stance on the subject. Also in the first paragraph is the necessary background information for context, in this case a description of capybaras for readers who aren’t familiar with them. 

Notice how each of the three body paragraphs focuses on its own particular topic. The first discusses how rodents in general make good pets, and the second dispels some common rumors about capybaras as pets. The third paragraph directly addresses criticism of the writer’s point of view, a common tactic used in argumentative and persuasive essays to strengthen the writer’s argument. 

Last, the concluding paragraph reiterates the previous points and ties them together. Because the topic involves laws about keeping capybaras as pets, there’s a call to action about contacting lawmakers. The final sentence is written as a friendly send-off, leaving the reader at a high point. 

Five-paragraph essay FAQ

What is a five-paragraph essay.

A five-paragraph essay is a basic form of essay that acts as a writing tool to teach structure. It’s common in schools for short assignments and writing practice. 

How is it structured?

The five-paragraph essay structure consists of, in order: one introductory paragraph that introduces the main topic and states a thesis, three body paragraphs to support the thesis, and one concluding paragraph to wrap up the points made in the essay. 

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Teacher's Notepad

55 Opinion Writing Prompts For 5th Graders

I believe that libraries should be open twenty-four hours a day. Keeping libraries open would give people who work odd hours the opportunity to use the services offered. It also gives unhoused individuals somewhere to go when the weather is bad at night. In addition…

Learning to form an opinion and supporting it is an important part of your education.

It makes you a stronger writer  and  it teaches you how to properly research things that are important to you.

Check out our list of prompts below, and get ready to write!

Using This Guide

There is no right or wrong way to use this guide. As long as you’re practicing the skills you’ve learned in school, you’re already on the right track. But if you need some ideas to help you get started, try one of these ideas:

  • Scroll through the list and pick the first prompt that jumps out at you.
  • Add today’s month and date, and use that number.
  • Ask your teacher which topic they think you would be most interested in.

Pick a Prompt and Go!

  • Which subject is the most important for students to learn? Why?
  • Is it better to take risks or to be careful?
  • Do you think sports should be segregated by gender? Why or why not?
  • Is it important for kids to know about current events?
  • Do you think school lunches should be healthier?
  • Should students be allowed at parent-teacher conferences?
  • Do you think students should be required to learn cursive? Why or why not?
  • Should students be allowed to choose their teacher?
  • Why do you think your favorite professional sports is team the best?
  • Should Black history be taught more than just one month out of the year?
  • Do you think 5th graders need cell phones?
  • Would you rather wear a uniform to school, or casual clothes? Why?
  • Should students have several short breaks throughout the day, or one long break?
  • Are cell phones the biggest distraction in class? If not, what is?
  • Do you think homework should be mandatory?
  • Write a persuasive essay to your principal asking for a later start time.
  • Would it be better to start and end school one hour earlier, or one hour later?
  • Should students be required to read classic literature?
  • Which type of pet is the best?
  • Should students be allowed to pick where they sit in class?
  • Should schools grade on a pass/fail basis or keep the A-F scale?
  • Would you rather be the very best at one thing, or “just okay” at a bunch of things?
  • You just caught your best friend cheating on a test. Do you tell the teacher? Why or why not?
  • Should competitive gaming be considered a sport?
  • Should students be paid for going to school? If so, what should they be paid for, and how much?
  • Should schools teach more LGBT+ history?
  • Do schools do enough to prevent bullying?
  • What is the best video game ever made? Why?
  • Should kids get to choose their own bedtime?
  • In your opinion, is virtual school more or less beneficial than in-person learning?
  • Is it important to try new things?
  • Should students be required to take PE?
  • Are mental health days important for students?
  • Does your city do enough to help the environment?
  • Do you prefer sweet or salty treats?
  • Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
  • Do you think aliens are real?
  • Should students be required to take an art or music class? Why?
  • What is the best board game ever made? Why?
  • Is it important for everyone to learn at least one foreign language?
  • Is cold pizza a tasty breakfast?
  • Who is the better hero: Harry Potter or Percy Jackson?
  • Are 5th graders responsible enough to babysit?
  • What is the best book ever, and why?
  • Should etiquette be taught in schools?
  • Is your city a good place to live?
  • Should students be allowed to be more involved in school politics?
  • Do grades really matter? Why or why not?
  • What do you think is the hardest job in the world?
  • Should kids be allowed more screen time?
  • Are schools inclusive and accessible enough? What more could they do?
  • Who is the best Marvel hero? Why?
  • Should the voting age be lowered? If so, to what age?
  • Is social media harmful to preteens and teens?
  • Which season is the best? Why?

Looking For More?

If you’re looking for more prompts, activities, and homework resources, we’ve got you covered.

And if you’re looking for something specific but can’t find it, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

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Length of essays - 9th grade?

regentrude

By regentrude , September 10, 2010 in High School and Self-Education Board

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We are doing Great Books and DD is writing literature analysis essays on topics related to the books (not research papers).

What length (word count) would you expect from a 9th grader?

Thanks - English is the one subject where I have no good feeling for expectations (I am not a native speaker and did not go through the US educational system.)

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Hmm.I don't think I would concentrate so much on word count as content.Things I would focus on

Having a strong thesis statement

Having examples (at least two) from the book.

Structure of essay- each paragraph states a point that supports my thesis and all sentences apply to that point (probably require 2-4 paragraphs) And an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph

Pam L in Mid Tenn

I'm not into word count but quality count. :)

That said, I expect my high schoolers to write 2 to 3 pages for most writting assignments. (single spaced.... although my dd18's college papers are to be double spaced).

I go easy on the first paper. In fact, most "first" assignments this year will not be graded. I will use them to demonstrate expectations for the remaining papers.

From Ms. Bauer's writing overview pdf file she suggests 2 one-page pursuasive papers per week in history, lit, or science. and two 4 -8 page research papers for a 9th grader.

Things I would focus on   Having a strong thesis statement   Having examples (at least two) from the book.   Structure of essay- each paragraph states a point that supports my thesis and all sentences apply to that point (probably require 2-4 paragraphs) And an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph

Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort.

Right now DD is working on an essay about the use of epithets in Homer's Iliad. However, it is not intended to be a persuasive essay: she does not argue a thesis that can be right or wrong. She examines the recurrence of epithets, their function, where certain characteristics of persons come from, how it can be used to fix the meter - but it is more explanatory about a specific stylistic tool.

These may be dumb questions; however, in my home country the writing education was not as formulaic as in the US. I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.

Thanks for all the help.

My dd just finished her first 5-paragraph essay for this year (9th). We started out "easy" (I'm NOT a good writer, so, sad to say, her writing experience hasn't been very strong), with a 350 word essay. From here on out they'll get longer/more in depth. The quality goes without saying. It's definitely required! But, for her, the length of what she had to write was important to know, so that's what we did. I know it's not long, but it was a great learning experience for her, so we're happy with it! :D

Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort. Right now DD is working on an essay about the use of epithets in Homer's Iliad. However, it is not intended to be a persuasive essay: she does not argue a thesis that can be right or wrong. She examines the recurrence of epithets, their function, where certain characteristics of persons come from, how it can be used to fix the meter - but it is more explanatory about a specific stylistic tool.   These may be dumb questions; however, in my home country the writing education was not as formulaic as in the US. I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.   Thanks for all the help.

Oh, I hope I didn't say something that made you think it was a dumb question. It was a very good question. If you wanted to say a specific amount I would say the essay you described would take 2 pages. But I would also focus on making sure she answered the questions completely.

I posted this almost a year ago. Perhaps some of it will help. Btw- Dd is now in her last year of undergrad school. She graduates in May as a Poli-Sci major. Her plan is to begin grad school next year and then do her PhD. She wants to teach college students.

http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/showthread.php?t=139634

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Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort.   I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.    

The five paragraph essay evolved as a pedagogical tool for teachers who had not had instruction on how to teach writing, and were not confident writers themselves. It also evolved hand in hand with the essay components of the SAT and similar tests. The nearly exclusive emphasis on this format in US schools is unfortunate, because it has shifted from being one tool, one approach, to being just about the only way many kids are taught -- not only to write, but to think about writing. And that is very limiting.

You might look at some college composition textbooks to get an idea of how other forms of essay writing are taught at the freshman level. Then you can play with these and adjust them for your daughter's age and schedule constraints.

Other things I've found useful include the freshman writing page on the University of Chicago's website, and the New York Times's educational section, which includes a number of examples of different kinds of essays that have appeared in the paper and lesson plans to go along with them.

I'll try to find and post these sites again, but I tend to lose my own post while searching -- so I'll do this first and then do the sites separately.

Another wonderful resource is the series put out each year: Best Essays of 2009 (or whatever year it happens to be). I also have Best Non-Fiction Writing of _____. Both have many very different examples of structure, form, style, etc.

A long time ago it seems to me I came across a lovely article called something like Reclaiming the Exploratory Essay... I'll have a look for that one, too. I kept it for years and loved it, but have no clue where it is now.

http://writing.program.uchicago.edu/resources/collegewriting

http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/08

If this link doesn't work (I just can't figure out the Times links), you can google the title: "Ten Ways to Develop Expository Writing Skills with the New York Times"

These two resources are wonderful.

And this may, or may not, be the article I remember:

Thomas Newkirk, Critical Thinking and Writing: Reclaiming the Essay

Eric ED 309457

Thank you so much for the help.

If anybody else is interested in the link: the address of the U Chicago writing program has changed a bit:

http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/resources/collegewriting/index.htm

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  1. How Long Should an Essay Be?

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