Lately, the 5-paragraph essay has been getting a bad rap. After all, there’s really nothing wrong with an essay composed of an introduction, a conclusion, and three paragraphs that explain and/or support a main point sandwiched in between. In fact, it can be an effective way to structure a piece of nonfiction writing.But it’s certainly not the only way. And therein lies the problem. While students should have the opportunity to practice explaining ideas and composing arguments in 5 paragraphs, they should also learn and practice lots of other ways of writing.
So now that we’ve agreed the 5-paragraph essay isn’t evil—in fact it can really come in handy—I’d like to point out that sharing nonfiction children’s books with a list text structure can be a great way to show students that some authors use a similar format as they write.
What exactly is a list book?
Sound familiar? A list book is basically a 10-ish paragraph essay (depending on how the book is designed and how many double-page spreads are devoted to backmatter).
When students create a spread-by-spread book map of a list book, its similarity to a 5-paragraph essay quickly becomes clear, showing students that this kind of writing is authentic. It's more than just a classroom construct or a test-prep activity, it’s a kind of writing that professional writers have used—and in some cases modified in innovative ways—to create some of kids' favorite nonfiction picture books.