The Expanded Paragraph/Brief Essay Framework

For the Secondary School Teacher

Students who can write different types of expository paragraphs on concrete topics are ready to write an expanded paragraph or brief essay. The expanded paragraph/brief essayfocuses on less concrete topics and requires students to think about what they can less easily observe. The framework for an expanded paragraph/brief essay is three sentences that support the topic, marked by the transitional expressions “first of all,” secondly,” and “thirdly.” An elaborating sentence that infers more information follows each supporting sentence. All sentences are arranged in a clear, logical order.

To write three sentences that support the topic, plus an elaborating sentence for each, students must be able to:

  • engage in discussions about an assigned topic and intellectually process information for relevance and accuracy
  • categorize information (e.g., break an assigned topic down into smaller components)
  • provide clear examples that support the topic sentence
  • make inferences that respond to how and why questions

The procedures below help students develop a topic sentence for an expanded paragraph/brief essay, write supporting sentences and elaborating sentences in the body of the paragraph, and compose a concluding sentence. These procedures are for use with the expanded paragraph/brief essay framework. A sample framework follows.

The Topic

An expanded paragraph/brief essay begins with a topic sentence that needs the support of clear, logical ideas. Teachers can cue students for the topic sentences with a question. For example:

Question: Did the pioneers face many problems as they traveled west?

Topic Sentence: The pioneers faced many problems as they traveled west.

The Body

The body of an expanded paragraph/brief essay supports the topic sentence. The transitional expressions “first of all,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” mark each sentence that supports the topic sentence. The inference answers the question why or, occasionally, how. Students create a coherent expanded paragraph or brief essay by focusing on accurate information, logical inferences, and precise vocabulary. They write in the present tense unless the topic is of historical interest.

The Concluding Sentence

The concluding sentence directly relates to the topic sentence. Students often need guiding questions to synthesize information for a concluding sentence. The teacher models the pattern below and asks students to paraphrase the information in a concluding sentence.

Teacher:  Did the pioneers face serious problems traveling west, such as weather, accidents, and sickness? Did it take a lot of courage to overcome them? Who can paraphrase this information in a concluding sentence?

Student:  The pioneers faced serious problems traveling west, such as weather, accidents, and sickness, and it took a lot of courage to overcome them.

Excerpt from:
From Talking to Writing: Strategies for Scaffolding Expository Expression
A Landmark School Teaching Guide
Terrill M. Jennings and Charles W. Haynes © 2002

Strategies to Download

Paragraph Framework:

Framework for Expanded Paragraph / Brief Essay.


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