Tag Archives: Essay

What’s With TEXAS Paragraphs

It wasn’t until I arrived at my current school that writing was streamlined across the middle school with a specific format for introductory paragraphs, body paragraphs, and conclusions. We follow a TEXAS format for the body paragraphs of argumentative and literary essays. TEXAS stands for:

Topic Sentence


textual eXample


So What?

The body paragraphs are the meat of an essay. Body paragraphs must include specific textual evidence to support a claim and provide analysis of the textual evidence describing how it supports the claim. Stating “This quote proves . . . “ is not enough. Analysis needs to hold the reader’s hand and walk them through the connection between the textual evidence and the claim. At the eighth grade level, students are required to include three or more examples (2 direct quotes and one indirect example) per paragraph to really prove a claim is valid.

The hardest part for my students is the analysis after finding the strongest evidence to support one’s claim. What is good analysis? And how do students know what to say in the ANALYSIS? I tell my students to get rid of the word “proves” and begin with the words “This shows that” following the quote. This will forces students to EXPLAIN and elaborate on their thinking without summarizing the connection between the evidence and the claim.

Let’s look at a student exemplar.


So to help students write off of a quote and practice analysis, I created this graphic organizer

It is not enough to find valid evidence, because evidence itself doesn’t support an argument. What supports an argument is the way students UNPACK or EXPLAIN evidence. Students need lots of opportunities to help articulate their understanding of a text. Explaining and elaborating is a skill students build throughout schooling to help unpack the layers of a text.

How do you help students analyze and articulate their understanding of a text? Share your ideas in the comment section of this blog. I am always interested to know what is working for other teachers and students.



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Revision Olympics for the [Dreaded] Essay

Maybe you’ve assigned an in-class essay assessment where students are required to write a four or five paragraph essay exhibiting their understanding and analysis of a text.  Writing under pressure and within a short time span (two 40 minute class periods), the results are mediocre.

I feel that I do not have enough time in the class period or in the school year to do everything that I want to and have to cover in my classroom.

Right now, I am doing all that I can to support my students as writers and give them the tools necessary to succeed in school on written assessments. In order to help my students understand the elements of an effective essay and to boost their writing for future writing assessment, I created a Revision Olympics Activity for students to reflect on their writing, look at models of proficient essays, and improve their writing for clarity, focus, and evidence effectively supporting the claim.

Below, I will walk through the different challenges of the olympic activity and at the bottom of this post I included a link to all of the challenges and handouts created for my students.

Challenge #1 – Student Exemplars & Self Reflection

Students read through two student exemplar essays and addressed the following:

What did the student writer do well in the essay?

What would you want to model/borrow/steal from his or her essay?

What is one thing you are going to do differently as a result of reading this student’s essay?

Challenge #2 – Building Better Intro Paragraphs

Students reread their own introductory paragraphs and addressed whether it included an engaging broad statement to capture the audience’s attention, linking information with text titles and authors, and a clear thesis statement that states the claim (and so what) in one clear cut sentence.

Challenge #3 Finding & Supporting Your Claims: Textual Evidence

Working in small groups, students worked as an investigative team to determine whether the evidence provided in their own essays supported their claim.  First, students were to find all the evidence provided in the essay and compile it into a graphic organizer. Second, students had to explain how each piece of evidence supported the claim. If other members of the team disagree with the explanations, the student was to find evidence that would convince them. Lastly, students were to record what the author was trying to prove with the example or evidence and why it mattered.

Once students completed the three challenges they were to revise their original essay.  The revised writing that I got in return was detailed, clear, concise, and effectively met the requirements of the writing prompt.

Here is a link to the handouts and challenge directions to use with your students.

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