Teaching Middle School Students to Write Essay Body Paragraphs


Your middle school students will ACE IT when they write essay body paragraphs using this structure!

When I teach my middle school students how to write essays, I first go through the entire process with them.

First we read and flip the prompt.  Then we read and mark the text.  Instead of going head long into planning, I pause the writing process and teach them what goes into an introduction (one type of essay at a time) and then what goes into a body paragraph.

I always start with informative essays.  So after I have taught the student an informative introduction (argumentative introductions have a critical difference), I teach the body paragraph.  I teach that this paragraph has at least 8 sentences.  Could students write more?  Sure, but no less.  This is what those 8 sentences are:


Answer is a transition with the restatement of the prompt with one of your reasons.

For example, in my digital informative essay unit, students will create a thesis that tells that Mount Rushmore and Pipestone National Monument are such significant places that they should be protected because of their natural, historical and cultural importance.

So the answer would be:  "Initially, natural benefits are one reason why Mount Rushmore and Pipestone National Monument are significant".

Cite Evidence

Given the reason from the answer, students will now be directed to look at the texts and choose a piece of evidence for "natural benefits".  Then we discuss how to "prepare" the quote.  By "preparing", I mean to set it up with the name and author of the article and where it can be found.

For example: In "Pipestone National Monument" by E.C. Spangler, the text asserts "...nature has been protected and can be enjoyed by all people for generations to come". (1,3)  

The (1, 3) refers to the first article, third paragraph.  

My students have tended to need more practice with this concept and so I developed some notes that help walk them through this concept with an activity. (There is a printable and digital version.)

Give your middle school students a 4 step process to follow every time they need to cite evidence!  Combine that with some practice activities and your students will be citing evidence like champs!

Explain with commentary

This is the hardest part for most of my students.  I have them answer two questions when they write commentary:

1.  Why is this evidence important?
2.  How does this evidence show that the reason supports the answer?

An example of commentary based on the thesis and information above would be:  "This is vital because if the natural elements were not protected, then they might not exist in the future.  This proves that by protecting Pipestone, many plants, birds, and mammals are also protected."

This doesn't always prevent the redundancy that occurs in this section of the paragraph, but it helps.  The clincher to ensure less redundancy is to tell the students that they cannot repeat the same words (other than the proper nouns) from their topic sentence at all in this section.  They groan and moan but it really helps them think about what the evidence really proves.

I also give each of my students a "toolkit" with loads of sentence starters for evidence and commentary as well as tons of transition words to give them ideas of ways to say things differently.

Reduce redundancy in your middle school students' essays with these sentences starters for evidence, commentary and more!


This is a fancy word for "repeat" as in repeat the cycle of cite and explain.

I tell my students they start this with a transition, followed by a new piece of evidence for the same reason with 2 sentences of commentary that answer the 2 questions from above.

Top it off

This is the last sentence of the body paragraph and is the conclusion.  I teach my students to reverse the first sentence of this paragraph to write the conclusion.  So if the first sentence starts with the reason, the last sentences ends with the reason.

So for example, taking the sentence from above, I would show my students how to write the conclusion this way:  Mount Rushmore and Pipestone National Monument are significant because of their natural benefits.

Now the paragraph has come full circle.

Did you notice?

The first letter of each of these sentences spells ACE IT - and students will surely ace their essays when they use this structure!  I might get some eyerolls on this one but it sticks!

This is the mnemonic that you will find in all of my essay writing resources in both my printable and digital units.  These units include detailed notes of the steps above as well as the writing process plus the prompt, texts, organizers and more.  The first time I teach essay writing in the school year, it is in this way so that the students have a model for the rest of the year.

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Use this mnemonic to help your middle school students remember how to structure an informative essay body paragraph!


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