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Writing Lesson Plan: Modifying the 5-Paragraph Essay to 3-Paragraphs

By Margo Dill

In your regular or special education classroom, you may need to teach how to write 5-paragraph essays through the writing process. You can modify this writing lesson plan to teach 3-paragraph essay writing and provide more support for brainstorming, prewriting, rough drafts, and so on.

Prewriting and Brainstorming

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If you are teaching writing a 5-paragraph essay with the writing process, then your first step will be teaching students to brainstorm for topics and filling out a graphic organizer. When brainstorming a topic, it is important for students to pick a focused, narrow topic that they know a lot about. When filling out the graphic organizer, it is important for students to include main ideas and details in an organized way.

Modifications: Students who are writing a 3-paragraph essay instead of writing a 5-paragraph essay will need to brainstorm topics also. Special needs students may have difficulty narrowing their topics. For example, they may choose dogs, but this is too broad. You will need to work with these students during this lesson to choose a narrower topic, or you can also give them partners to work with. When doing prewriting and filling out the graphic organizer, students will have a smaller graphic organizer since they are writing three paragraphs. It is helpful if the teacher fills out the main ideas for the student, and then asks them to write details that they want to include in each of the paragraphs. An example might be: Paragraph 1: Introduce topic of Taking Your Dog For a Walk; Paragraph 2: Three Things to Always Remember When Taking Your Dog For a Walk; Paragraph 3: Conclusion and Why it is Important to Take Dogs for a Walk.

Rough Drafts, Editing, and Revising

eraser by pink sherbert photography When you are teaching writing a 5-paragraph essay, then you will teach about rough or first drafts, editing, and revising. These are difficult skills, and students at all ability levels may have difficulty with the difference between editing and revising.

Modifications: With rough drafts, students who are writing 3-paragraph essays should show each finished paragraph to you or a reliable classroom buddy to make sure they are on the right track. It is easier to help students with one paragraph at a time if there is any confusion than when the whole essay is finished. Ask students to skip lines in case information needs to be added. If these students have no idea where to start, then ask them to say their ideas into a tape recorder or to you, and then someone can transcribe their ideas into a rough draft. To modify lessons on revising and editing, it is easier to give students one or two "mistakes" to look for in their papers instead of expecting them to find all mistakes and correcting them. For example, with revising, ask students to rewrite their beginning sentence or add another detail in the middle. If you notice they used a certain word a lot, ask them to remove it. For editing, ask students to focus on punctuation or capitalization.

Final Drafts

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This writing lesson plan is complete when students are writing a 5-paragraph essay final draft.

Modifications: This can sometimes be the killer step for many students. They don't want to rewrite their entire paper after working on it for several days. Writing often comes slow for them, especially if they have to write their final copies in cursive. You can do several things to modify this part of the writing lesson plan. You can ask the student to type his paper. You can tell him he can type it at home with his parents' help. You can ask the student to write the first paragraph in his neatest handwriting, and you will write the other two. The student can read his paper into a tape recorder for his final copy. Figure out what your students' strengths and weaknesses are and build on those during the final draft stage.