Lesson plan

Calling All Nonfiction Writers!

The hardest part of writing an essay can be the first few steps. This lesson and accompanying graphic organizers will help students map out their ideas and practice crafting paragraphs. With this support, your writers will be off and running!
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to select a topic for an essay, identify supporting ideas and details, and write at least one paragraph.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to think of texts that have specific patterns or structures. A think-pair-share would work well.
  • Take ideas from the class and touch on the structure of each one (letters, speeches, songs, resumes, poems, etc.).
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that essays are a kind of text that is usually about five to nine paragraphs in length. Essays also follow a specific structure.
  • Explain that structures are like kitchen cupboards. There are places where things go, and everyone expects them to be in their place. When they are in their place, you can focus on making your food and not get distracted by looking for things. In an essay, when ideas are organized the way the reader expects, they can focus on the ideas without getting distracted by sentences that are out of place.
  • Ask students what they know about the structure of an essay. Add details and correct any misperceptions.
(20 minutes)
  • Tell students that they are going to begin an informative essay project, and that the first step is to choose a topic.
  • Give students your parameters for selecting a topic. You may want to have them choose a similar topic (like a state or an animal), or a topic that relates to your social studies or science curriculum.
  • Explain that their topic should be one that interests them and one that they have information about.
  • Instruct students to make a list of three possible topics.
  • Have students do a two-minute quick write on each topic — this could be bullet points rather than sentences.
  • After the quick writes, students should have a better idea of which topic they want to select.
  • Distribute the Frame Your Essay worksheet. Walk students through the instructions and complete it as a shared learning experience.
(30 minutes)
  • Distribute the Map Your Essay worksheet.
  • Review the template and have students complete it, filling in information on their chosen topic. If this is part of a bigger report, this step could be carried out during another lesson where students were allowed to do research.


  • Complete the Map Your Essay worksheet as a class, using the topic of a student who might struggle with this activity.
  • Allow students to use this finished template as a map for their essay (assuming they are willing to write to that topic).


  • Distribute the Write Your Essay worksheet.
  • Instruct students to study the instructions and begin writing their essay.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out a blank copy of Map Your Essay to each group. Instruct groups to map out ideas for a topic of their choice. Or, you could assign them a topic such as "Why Kids Need Recess." Students won’t be writing to this topic, only sketching out ideas.
(5 minutes)
  • Discuss: Why do essays have to be structured a certain way? How does knowing the structure of nonfiction help you understand a nonfiction book or article?

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