Free Printable Outline for the Five Paragraph Essay

February 12, 2015

Carrie Fernandez


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Most students will eventually need to know how to write the 5-Paragraph Essay. Here is a great five paragraph essay printable outline for helping your middle school and high school students with creating an outline for their essays.

The image is of a five essay outline with the title of this blog post, "FREE Printable Outline for the Five Paragraph Essay."

Five Paragraph Essays

The idea of five-paragraph essays is a simple format of writing an essay that sets the stage for the progression of more difficult essay assignments. Learning how to write five-paragraph essays  helps students to structure basic papers in the future.

Of course, students need to know how to write a paragraph before writing essays though. 

What is a five-paragraph essay?

A five-paragraph essay is used to help students write an essay with a specific method. This style is typically what is required in educational assignments and is a writing tool to build a foundation of how papers should be formatted.

Structure of a Five-paragraph Essay

The five-paragraph essay includes one introduction paragraph, three supporting paragraphs that form the body of the essay, and the last paragraph that concludes the essay.

Five Paragraph Essay Structure

The five-paragraph essay is a very specific type of essay that sets the stage for larger forms of writing. Because there is one paragraph at the beginning, one at the end, and three in between, it is often called a one-three-one essay, a three-tier essay, or a hamburger essay.

Introductory Paragraph

The first introductory paragraph is very important and sets the tone for the rest of the essay. The introductory paragraph should contain a thesis statement.

The thesis statement is a single sentence that summarizes what the essay is about. The thesis statement normally includes the writer’s opinion or argument, or point of view.

Another purpose of the introductory paragraph is to briefly state what will follow in the body of the essay. This only gives an idea of what will be in the body of the essay.

Body Paragraphs

The brief sentences in the introduction set the stage for the body of the essay. The bodies of the essay are normally called the “meat” of the essay.

The three paragraphs in the body of the essay include essay details and evidence that supports the thesis statement. However, each paragraph has a topic sentence (the first sentence) that is an umbrella of what that paragraph will be about.

After the topic sentence, the rest of each paragraph is filled with details that support the topic sentence of that paragraph. It is important that the sentences from the paragraphs in the body do not go off-topic but include relevant details.

Concluding Paragraph

The concluding paragraph does just that, concludes the essay with a summary paragraph. No new supporting information should go in this last paragraph.

In this conclusion, the writer rewords the thesis statement. The conclusion should summarize the main idea and the points of the paragraphs in the body section and introduction.

In the conclusion of essay writing, your goal is to convince the reader to do something, think a certain way, or see a view on a particular subject.

5 Paragraph Essay Outline

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to get access to a printable 5 Paragraph Essay Outline that can help your students with their writing process. 

5 paragraph essay templates

How to Start a Five-paragraph Essay

Sometimes the most challenging part of writing an essay is not knowing how to start it. To develop a well written essay, there are certain processes, to begin with that will set the writer up for success.

Start with an outline. Label the outline as follows:



  1. paragraph 1
  2. paragraph 2
  3. paragraph 3


Next, know what the thesis or main topic of the essay will be. The thesis will be the main idea the essay will need to support, prove, and expound on. Once you know the thesis statement, the rest of the can start being filled out.

Beginning your essay with an outline and thesis statement will allow the rest of the essay to fall into place.

How to Transition Between Paragraphs

Another challenge in writing essays is going from one idea to the next. Transitioning from one paragraph to the next in a smooth way is difficult for many.

A well-written work flows smoothly, but that takes experience and time. When students first begin writing, their work can be choppy and often end abruptly.

Transition sentences are the key to making those ideas and paragraphs flow. Use words that connect the new idea. Transition sentences can start with words like “however” or “consequently” or “after.” Find a list of transition words or phrases for your children on Grammarly.

Free Writing Rubrics and Student Checklist Pack

Five Paragraph Essay FAQ

Frequently asked questions are a great go-to when students learn to write in a five-paragraph essay format.

How do you outline a 5 paragraph essay?

A five-paragraph essay outline is the best way to help a writer make a skeleton of the most important points of supporting arguments, supporting information, and the entire essay. The below is a good outline to produce good writing in a simple format.

Outline of an essay:

INTRODUCTION (includes the thesis statement and a brief summary of what the essay is about)

  1. Main idea/theme (this sentence or the last sentence includes a thesis statement)
  2. Purpose
  3. Purpose
  4. Purpose
  5. Transition sentence

BODY (topic sentences with details, evidence, etc.)

1. paragraph 1

  1. Purpose 1
  2. Support
  3. Support
  4. Transition Sentence

2. paragraph 2

  1. Purpose 2
  2. Support
  3. Support
  4. Transition sentence

3. paragraph 3

  1. Purpose 3
  2. Support
  3. Support
  4. Transition sentence

CONCLUSION (review of the three-paragraph points and thesis statement)

  1. The explanation for why your support for the thesis is correct.
  2. Your supporting points are summarized briefly.
  3. Summary and wrap up.

What are the 5 parts of a 5 paragraph essay?

Some new writers confused the 5 different paragraphs of an essay with the 5 parts of that essay. The actual parts of an essay have to do with the essay’s content.

Part 1: Introduction

All types of writing, including essays, need an introduction. It includes a hook, brief background information, and a thesis statement.

Part 2: Argument

The argument is where the body of the essay lies. In a 5 part essay, the argument will be in the 1st of 3 (1 of 3) middle paragraphs. Here writers provide sufficient details that support or explain their thesis statement.

Part 3: Counter Argument

This section continues the three paragraphs (2 of 3) but focuses on the counterargument or just explains alternate views of the topic. This holds evidence for the opposing view or just an alternate view from the thesis.

Part 4: Rebuttal

In the rebuttal part of the essay (3 of 3), writers can refute the claims from the counterargument. Writers can challenge the ideas that do not support the thesis and prove/support the thesis. This last paragraph should be persuasive in nature and end with a concluding sentence.

Part 5: Conclusion

The matter of the thesis rests in the conclusion. Therefore, the writers should restate the thesis and follow it with a summary of all the claims made in the body of the 5 part essay.

How many sentences are in a five-paragraph essay?

It is customary for a five-paragraph essay to have about 25-40 sentences. In that essay, each paragraph should hold 5-8 sentences.

How long does it take to write a 5-paragraph essay?

This seems like a simple enough question. However, the time it takes to write a five-paragraph essay can vary on many factors.

The consensus is that a five-paragraph essay should take about 3 hours for a straightforward topic and 5 hours if the topic is more complex. Please be advised that writing is not the bulk of the time. The bulk of the time may come from research and getting the information to add to the outline.

How do you begin a paragraph?

Because a paragraph should discuss a single topic, it also starts with a topic sentence. A good topic sentence pulls the audience into the rest of the supporting sentences.

Free Writing Resources

Five Paragraph Essay Printable Outline

Five-paragraph essays provide the foundation for writing essays and papers of any length and structure. Use this printable 5 Paragraph Essay Outline to help students get their thoughts organized on paper. This will enable them to remember the steps of writing a five paragraph essay. 

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5 paragraph essay templates

DOWNLOAD: Five Paragraph Essay Outline PDF

In Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay repeats the thesis statement (maybe not word for word) and reiterates the essay’s overall purpose. The writer has the freedom to invite the reader to consider their views. Remember that no new ideas should appear in the conclusion/the final paragraph.

So, in conclusion of this blog post, remember that the introduction and conclusion are like bookends. The five-paragraph model shows three body paragraphs but can be expanded once writers are used to the five-paragraph essay.

Once the outline is put into five-paragraph form, write the first draft. Have someone read the draft and make more edits. The final draft is what is handed in.

It is important that students learn the foundations of the five-paragraph essay. If they continue their education, they must build upon that five-paragraph frame in their academic writing.

Any writing assignment would benefit from the 5-paragraph structure of your essay to adopt as a writing style. Whether it be a persuasive essay, argumentative essay, a literary analysis, or any different types of essays, using this three-tier model is the easiest way to produce good writing.

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