The 5-Paragraph Essay

  1. From Paragraph to Essay

“A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” –Aristotle, Poetics, written in about 350 B.C.E.

An essay is a series of paragraphs that discuss a single idea in some depth.  It can be just a couple of paragraphs long, or it can be dozens of pages long, as in a research paper. Usually, however, an essay is much longer than a paragraph, though its structure has some similar points.

The paragraph structure that we have been studying is a good model for a “5-paragraph” or “hamburger” essay that you should master.

Paragraph “Hamburger” Essay
1 Topic Sentence (the first sentence) 1 Introduction Paragraph with “thesis statement” (as the last sentence of the paragraph.)
2~3 Supporting Sentences 2~3 Supporting Paragraphs, each with its own topic sentence
1 Concluding Sentence 1 Concluding Paragraph (restate the thesis, then give an opinion, prediction or suggestion.)

The Benefits of Extensive Reading

Extensive reading should be a key part of your English study. Not only is it an easy and fun way to study, but it is also the only practical way to learn all the millions of collocations–common word pairings–that occur in English. In addition, research has shown that it is as or more effective than any other kind of language study for all language skills, not just reading. Finally, if you make it a habit, you’ll be able to maintain your English even if you have no time for formal study. If you’re not practicing extensive reading, you’re missing out on a great way to study English.

Here’s the same topic expanded into a 5-paragraph essay. There’s more detail, but it is basically the same argument structure on a larger scale.

Get Reading Now 


Students of English as a foreign language have to spend years acquiring the foundations of the language. This can be frustrating and discouraging for many students, but those who press on will eventually find they have enough vocabulary and grammar to begin to understand simple texts. Once this happens, language acquisition can start to accelerate. It turns out that reading a lot of simple texts, referred to as “Extensive Reading,” should be a crucial part of every student’s English study, whether beginner or advanced.  


First, reading extensively is the only practical way to study collocations. Collocations are high-frequency word pairings in a language that sound “natural.” (For example, one can play tennis, billiards, or the saxophone; one does not play bowling, judo, or swimming.) This presents significant challenges for students. There are too many collocations to count, let alone study formally. The only way for students to pick up these natural word parings is slowly, over time, through lots and lots of language input. Reading extensively, especially on inherently interesting topics, is the most efficient and practical way to get this input.  


It may come as a surprise, but Extensive reading has also been shown to be one of the best ways to study all aspects of a language. It should improve reading skills. Reading is one of those things people learn to do by doing. However, studies have confirmed, over and over, that extensive reading is a more effective way to prepare for exams like the TOEIC than actually taking a TOEIC preparation class! Extensive reading is highly recommended for those serious about improving their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.  


Extensive reading should also be the foundation for a lifetime of English as a foreign language study. Once students leave formal schooling, they find themselves busy with work and family, with little time for taking private lessons. Nevertheless, extensive reading is something anyone can do in their spare moments. It is essential to have suitable material–something easy and enjoyable to read. That way, reading becomes a pleasant reward to look forward to during the day. Students who make extensive reading a hobby will at least keep the English they have acquired and likely grow it throughout their lifetimes.  


The benefits of extensive reading are clear. While it may not look like serious study, and certainly should not feel like serious study, it is the most effective strategy for long-term language development, and every serious student of a foreign language should make extensive reading a priority. Moreover, since hundreds of websites provide free graded reading materials, it is easier than ever for each person to find just the right thing to read. It is clear that students who make extensive reading a regular part of their life will reap rich rewards indeed.