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This lesson unit reviews the traditional organization of essays and passages in order to provide students with basic background knowledge about how and where to place sentences for the Edit-Revise passage related questions. It includes exercises that are not timed and not graded covering a traditional paragraph and essay structure used in writing.

Passage or Essay Organization


Organizing sentences is critical to correctly answering Edit-Revise passage related questions, so students should be aware of the writing constructs developed in the common core curriculum; expository essays, argumentative essays, and narratives. These essay or passage outlines provide the framework for students to begin organizing parts of the passage and understanding the constructs of the various paragraphs and transitions. We will focus on the five paragraph essay structure because it is the most commonly practiced for both expository and persuasive passages, which represents the typical passage in this exam section — narratives follow a different outline. Even though the passages are not five paragraphs long on this exam section, they will generally exhibit the features of the traditional five-paragraph model. The passage will begin with scene-setting background sentences or perhaps a hook to grab the reader’s attention. The author will make a clear, succinct main claim and then list the arguments or details that will follow and support the main thesis — a roadmap. The traditional essay has three body paragraphs, which provide evidence and examples to support each feature or line of argument or possibly a rebuttal to contrasting arguments or information. The shorter passages on the exam may only explore one or two ideas in support of the author’s claim or transition to one opposing line of thought, but the approach is similar; examples and evidence will be included. Finally, the author will conclude by reiterating her main claim and the supporting ideas and perhaps even put forth a call to action. By middle school, most students have likely seen and implemented this traditional approach in writing classes, but not many think about how they can apply this knowledge to the Edit-Revise passage related questions on the SHSAT exam. It is useful to draw upon this writing knowledge to help reverse engineer the author’s writing outline, organize paragraphs and passages, and place sentences in proper order. The outline or organization of a traditional essay is shown below.

Traditional Passage Organization:

  1. Introduction
    1. Background Information
    2. Hook to get reader’s attention
    3. Thesis or main claim
    4. Roadmap to supporting ideas to be discussed in the body of the passage
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. Topic sentence for the first supporting idea
    2. Details in support of topic – includes evidence, examples, etc
    3. Transition to opposing ideas if applicable
  3. Conclusions
    1. Restate the main thesis and ideas
    2. Closing remarks or resolution

Welcome to the 5 paragraph ESSAY instruction unit.

These instructional quizzes are short, limited to only about a dozen questions, and they are not graded or timed. The purpose of this instructional module is to learn how to write the typical 5 paragraph essay.

Wait a second! The SHSAT doesn't require me to write an essay. Although SHSAT students do not write an essay for admission, the objective of this exercise is to get students to think about the organization of passages. Have you stopped to consider that what you learned in writing class is directly applicable to the SHSAT? Understanding how arguments and ideas are developed is instrumental to success on the ELA exam.


The Essay section is one part of the TJHSST or BCA admissions examination, and the coverage of common core writing skills including essay composition and related skills will be included in the SHSAT ELA exam. This instruction unit will help students to write clear, concise essays in reply to a prompt. Your essays reflect on your ability to read and understand a subject, develop a thoughtful reply or thesis, and organize your thoughts into a well-written response complete with supporting evidence and correct grammar in a high school level voice. Recognition of these skills will also be instrumental to success on the ELA Reading and Edit-Revise passage questions for the SHSAT exam.


Do you know the structure of the classic 5 paragraph essay? 


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