Category Archives: How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay

Create a mind web organizer

Organizing their thoughts before writing their first drafts is a step many children skip.  “Takes too much time” they claim.  Or “Too difficult.”

If students write an organizer the way I was taught in school, they are right.  A formal organizer can be time-consuming and frustrating.

But a mind web organizer can be quick and easy.  It does what an organizer is supposed to do–organize thoughts coherently and concisely–but without the pain of a formal outline.  Plus kids of almost any age can design one.

Here is an example of a mind web from a seventh grader I taught this past week.  He divided his topic, video games, into three parts:  Minecraft, time limits his parents impose, and why he likes video games.  He had never created an organizer before, so I wrote down the words he said at my end of the zoom meeting, held up my diagram, and he redrew it at his end.  It looked something like this:

For homework he will add details on this mind web for Minecraft and time limits. After that we will discuss why each of these subtopics is too large for a good essay, and instead of writing the essay, we will  turn one of those three subtopics into the new topic of another essay and create another mind web.  This is a new skill for this student, and he needs practice.

Creating this organizer took only a few minutes–far less time than revising a poorly organized essay.  You can find more information about how to create mind webs on pages 8 to 11 of  my book, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay, available from Amazon.  There you will see another example of an organizer, this time created by a third grader.

Using How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay to teach how to limit a topic

After babysitting my home-bound five-year-old and three-year-old grandsons for many months, I recently resumed tutoring writing, this time 100% online.  I’ve learned that using my book, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay, has helped make the teaching more personal.  And so I am going to share how you, too, can use this writing instruction book to improve your child’s writing, online or off.

Writing is a process done in a sequence of steps.  The steps are always the same—deciding on a topic, limiting it, organizing details around one main point, writing a draft, and revising, revising, revising.

Children are not born knowing these steps any more than they are born knowing how to play a sonata or bunt a baseball.  The steps must be learned and practiced.

How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay explains these steps, using examples written by children from first to sixth grades.  Yet the process is the same no matter what grade or what age.

One of the most difficult steps is the first step, choosing and limiting a topic.

Narrowing an essay topic from general to specific information is shown in the diagram above.  For more information about my book from which this diagram is taken, click on this link ( or on the book cover in the left column.

Often a teacher assigns a topic such as the American Revolutionary War which is usually studied in fourth grade in the US.  But as I explain in pages 1 and 2 of the book, the Revolutionary War is too big a topic.  Your child can narrow the topic by writing about a battle—say the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  Even that is too big a topic.  Your child can narrow it further by focusing on Paul Revere’s part in that battle.  But Revere’s actions on April 18 ad 19, 1775, include too much information for a five-paragraph fourth grade essay.

What to do?  Choose one of those ideas—say getting the signal–“one if by land, two if by sea.”  With this narrow topic, the student can research targeted reading and can discover fascinating details for an essay.

All this is covered in the book, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay.

Take another topic not covered in the book:  the Pandemic of 2020.  Again, this is a huge topic, too big for a student of any grade to tackle.  How about narrowing it to how the pandemic is affecting my family.  Still too big.  How about the pandemic’s effect on me:  being homebound, needing covid testing, not playing with friends, fear of getting sick, attending school online.

How about taking the last idea—attending school online—and further subdividing that.  A noisy house, no privacy, a spotty internet connection, difficulty with Zoom, mom as teacher.

Suppose your student chooses difficulty with Zoom as her topic.  How did she learn Zoom?  Who taught her?  Did she watch You Tube videos?  What problems did she encounter?  How did she feel?  How did she learn?

But wait—this topic can still be subdivided.  What if she chooses as a topic watching You Tube videos to learn Zoom.  This is a much smaller topic than the Pandemic of 2000.  Maybe there was one video which was particularly useful or confusing.  The student could focus on that one video and explain what she learned from it, or what confused her and how she solved the problem–or didn’t.

Or she could choose getting tested for covid.  Maybe she needed to wait in the car for ten hours on a hot summer day while her mother snaked the car through a huge parking lot.  What did she do while she waited?  Did she bring food?  How was the test administered?  What was the tester wearing?  Did the test hurt?  Did she need to wait for the results?  How long?  What were the results?  How did she feel?

Students come to writing with the idea that they must choose big topics such as the solar system or the life of Abraham Lincoln.  They think if they limit their topic, they won’t have enough information to write five paragraphs.  As the teacher, your job is to help a student narrow his topic until it is manageable.

And once you have done that, it is your job to help the student organize his information.  We will talk about that soon.  Or you can go to How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay, pages 3 to 23, to find out more.

How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay published

Do you know elementary and middle school students who want to write better?  Do you know ELL or older students who want simple, how-to steps for writing essays?

How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay brings together essay writing ideas from into a single source.  This book shows kids how to organize their ideas, overcome their fear of a blank page, write a good hook, connect their introduction to their conclusion, use transitions and figurative language, vary sentence types, use good vocabulary and revise, revise, revise.

How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay starts where kids start, thinking up an idea, and takes kids through the whole writing process.  This book offers a baby-step by baby-step process which kids can follow to write any kind of essay.  Plus examples from my real students show how other kids have succeeded using these same approaches to writing.

In particular, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay takes kids through the revising process, crucial to good writing.  Revising is rewriting—moving ideas around, adding details, replacing weak verbs with powerful verbs, varying sentence openings and lengths, adding figurative language and leaving readers with a smile.  This book tells how.

For twenty years, I have been helping kids write.  How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay collects my practical tips gained from working with hundreds of students. It can be used as a home school text, teaching kids the writing process from beginning to end.  Or it can be used to look up writing problems, like how to replace the verb “to be” with strong, specific verbs.

Directed at elementary and middle grade readers, How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay  works for English Language Learners too because of its short sections (usually a page long) and numerous illustrations.   Parents and teachers will find the book a useful teaching tool.

How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay is available from Amazon for $12.99 as of February 15.