5th grade writing

by: Jessica Kelmon | Updated: August 4, 2022

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Your fifth grader’s writing under Common Core Standards

By now, your child knows that writing is a process that requires research, feedback, and revision. This year, kids are expected to respond to others’ prompts for improvement and learn how to evaluate their own work, too.

Super study skills

In fifth grade, taking notes becomes an essential academic skill. Fifth graders use books, periodicals, websites, and other sources to do short research projects. Kids learn to use several sources to investigate a topic from different angles — both on their own and as part of group work with peers. Your child should keep track of all the sources they use and note what they learn, the name of the source, and the page number or url so they can find it again to create a source list or bibliography later. A big step in your child’s research process this year: taking the time to review, categorize, and summarize or paraphrase the information they’ve learned. What did your child find out about the animal’s habitat from each source? Sorting evidence into categories and summarizing information will help your fifth grader with the planning, writing, and revising stages of their writing project.

Can your 5th grader get organized to write an essay?

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Revise, rewrite

By now, your child should understand that writing is a process requiring several steps: planning, first draft, revisions, editing, and publishing or sharing work. Your child’s planning work should include reading and rereading, taking notes, finding additional sources, discussing how new knowledge fits into what your child knew before, visually organizing the information they plan to include, and determining the best way to clearly present their evidence as a cohesive set of points. After the first draft is written, the teacher and other students will offer feedback: asking questions to elicit new details, suggesting ways to clarify an argument, or pressing for new sources of information. Don’t be surprised if there are a few rounds of revisions this year: it’s how your child’s writing gets stronger. If revisions aren’t enough to improve your child’s writing, then this year your child may be required to rewrite the piece or try a new approach . Once the structure and contents are set, final edits are the time to perfect spelling and grammar. All this work on one writing assignment is meant to help your child think of writing as a multistep process so they can evaluate their work and see that — if it’s not up to snuff — they should keep trying until it is.

Fifth grade writing: opinion pieces

Your child’s opinion pieces should start by clearly stating an opinion about a topic. Then, kids should set up and follow a logically ordered structure to introduce each reason they’ll offer in support of their opinion. Their reasons should be supported by facts and details (a.k.a. evidence), and your child should use linking words, such as additionally, consequently , and specifically to connect evidence-backed reasons to their opinion. Finally, kids should close their argument with a well-articulated conclusion that supports their original opinion.

Fifth grade writing: informative writing

Logic reigns when evaluating your fifth grader’s informative writing. The purpose of this type of writing is to convey facts and ideas clearly. So a logically ordered presentation of supporting points is, well… quite logical. Your child should clearly introduce the topic and present related information in the form of a few clear, well-thought-out paragraphs. Kids should draw on facts, definitions, concrete details, quotes, and examples from their research to thoroughly develop their topic. To clearly connect their research, fifth graders should use advanced linking words (e.g. in contrast, especially ) to form compound and complex sentences that convey their points. Remember that your child’s presentation matters: making use of subject headings, illustrations, and even multimedia to illustrate points is encouraged whenever they make your child’s work more logical and clear. Then, to wrap it up, your child should have a well-reasoned conclusion.

Check out these three real examples of good 5th grade informational writing: •” How to save water ” •” Saving a Resource ” •” Water Saveing ”

Can your 5th grader write an informational essay?

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5th grade writing: narrative writing

A narrative is a story. Whether inspired by a book, real events, or your child’s imagination, your child’s story should start by introducing a narrator, characters, or a situational conflict. Fifth graders will be asked to use classic narrative devices like dialogue, descriptive words, and character development. Your child should be able to show how characters feel and how they react to what’s happening. Finally, the events should unfold naturally, plausibly bringing the story to a close.

Grammatically correct

By now, your fifth grader should have a solid understanding of the parts of speech. This year, your child should learn to use and explain the function of conjunctions (e.g. because, yet ), prepositions (e.g. above, without ), and interjections (e.g. Hi, well, dear ). Kids should also start using correlative conjunctions (e.g. either/or, neither/nor ). What’s more, students learn to form and use the past, present, and future perfect tenses ( I had walked; I have walked; I will have walked. ). With this tense mastered, fifth graders will be expected to use various verb tenses to convey a sequence of events and to recognize and correct any inappropriate shifts in tense.

Check out this related worksheet: •  Active and passive sentences

More sophisticated language

This year your child will: • Regularly refer to print and online dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries to spell challenging words correctly. • Use academic vocabulary words in writing. • Use more nuanced descriptions (think advanced synonyms and antonyms). • Master homographs (e.g. understand that bear means the animal and to support or carry). • Employ common idioms, adages, and proverbs (e.g. “born yesterday”; “the early bird gets the worm”; “failure teaches success” ) • Interpret figurative language like similes (e.g. “light as a feather” ) and metaphors ( “it’s a dream come true” ).

This year, your child will learn to use commas after a sentence’s introductory segment (e.g. Earlier this morning, we ate breakfast .), to set off the words yes and no in writing (e.g. Y es, we will ; and no, thank you ), to set off a question from the rest of a sentence (e.g. It’s true, isn’t it? ), and to show direct address. (e.g. Is that you, Mike? ) Your child will also use commas to separate items in a series. (e.g. I want eggs, pancakes, and juice .)

Your child should also be taught how to consistently use quotation marks, italics, or underlining to indicate titles when citing sources in reports and papers.

Check out these related worksheets: •  Punctuating a paragraph • Simile or cliche? •  Homophones and homographs

And it’s live!

The final step in writing this year? Publishing! Once all the hard work (the research, planning, writing, revisions, edits, and rewrites) are finished, your fifth grader’s ready to publish. Many classes will experiment with printing work or publishing it on a blog, website, or app. While teachers should be there for support, your child should be doing the work. The point is to learn keyboarding skills (2 full pages is the goal for fifth graders) and to interact and collaborate with peers. This could mean, for example, that your child reads a classmate’s published work online and either comments on it or references it when answering a question in class.

Updated August 2022

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

5th grade writing doesn’t have to be a struggle! This blog post will provide all of my best tips and ideas for teaching your fifth graders to succeed as writers.

I’ve had classes where writing was a struggle allll yearrrr longggg. I’ve also had classes where I’d swear my students were one step away from writing professionally.

Your groups will never be the same and that’s ok. Just roll with it!

Take heart in the fact that when students leave your class at the end of the year, they will be MUCH better writers than when they entered in the fall.

No matter how good (or bad) my students are at writing when 5th grade begins, we always start at the very beginning and work on writing strong sentences.

This post will give you a step-by-step breakdown of how I help my students move from dull to dazzling sentences: How to Help Your Students Write Better Sentences

Once they’ve got the hang of writing an excellent sentence, then we move on. Your class may move slowly or quickly but be sure to watch their writing closely for clues that you may need to slow down.

You need to know where you’re going to know how you should plan the journey. So, the next section lays out my end-of-the-year goals for my 5th grade writers. Everything I do all year leads to the completion of these goals.

End of the year goals for 5th grade writers

My end-of-the-year goals for my 5th grade writers….

By the time my students walk out of my classroom for the last time…

1. I want them to be able to efficiently organize their ideas and plan/write a five paragraph essay.

2. I want my students to be able to construct narrative, informative, and opinion essays.

3. I want my students to be able to choose appropriate sources and write a simple research report. 

4. I want my students to be able to closely read two paired passages and write an essay in response to a prompt. 

If you’re looking for a hyperlinked pdf version of my pacing and sequence for 5th grade writing, click the link below to have it sent to your email address. As a bonus, you’ll become a member of my weekly VIP email club just for upper elementary teachers. 🙂

5th grade writing samples

Obtain a Writing Sample!  

Give students a simple prompt and ask for a response in a paragraph or two. Emphasize to students that you are not grading writing samples for grammar, spelling, or structure. You are interested in the quality of their ideas. 

This writing sample will be valuable as the year goes on. Your students will improve so much that their first samples will (hopefully) be pathetic compared to their new, improved writing pieces.

I usually whip out their first samples after we’ve written a few five paragraph essays. Students feel inspired to keep growing their writing skills when they see how far they’ve come in just a few months. 

Example Writing Sample Prompts: 

  • Describe a talent or characteristic that makes you unique and different.
  • Tell about a time when you set a goal for yourself and reached that goal.
  • Pretend you live in a society where children are required to choose their future career paths in the 5th grade. What path would you choose? Explain.

5th grade writing reference notebooks

Create Writing Reference Notebooks with students! 

I’ll admit it – I’m a little obsessed with writing reference notebooks. We use composition notebooks to create these amazing sources of knowledge and we use them all year long. 

So, where do we start with creating writing reference notebooks?

The beginning section of students’ notebooks hold reference materials. I want students to have plenty of resources at their fingertips to improve their sentence writing, including alternatives for overused words and my specialty, sparkle words. Sparkle words are words that are just a little bit special and make my students’ writing shine, like scandalous, embrace, and intriguing.

Other ways that my students use their writing reference notebooks:

  • Writing journal entries
  • Creating a personal thesaurus
  • Writing topics & ideas list
  • Taking notes on writing skills lessons
  • Writing first drafts of longer assignments

This resource will give you an idea of the printable pages that I use for students’ notebooks: Writing Interactive Notebook – Reference Pages

Do I take grades on students’ writing reference notebooks? Not really. I want these notebooks to be a safe space for students to jot ideas and take risks with their first drafts. I do sometimes take a participation grade on their notebooks. This encourages students to keep their notebooks organized and up to date.

5th grade sentence writing

Start with sentences!  

When teaching 5th grade, you can expect students to start the year writing complete sentences, right?! No, sorry. Whether it’s the long break or maybe your students’ 4th grade teachers never required a lick of writing, your 5th graders will often begin the year with less-than-stellar sentences. 

So, I just plan to start with sentences first every year. We work on building and expanding sentences for about two weeks. Yes, two weeks probably seems like a really long time, but spectacular sentences are the foundation for creating great writers.

To improve my students’ sentences, I take the basic, simple sentences that students write and we work on adding more specific details and interest. First, I give students a list of five nouns and ask them to write one sentence using each noun.

I usually get sentences similar to these:

  • Pie is my favorite dessert.
  • My dad’s car is red.
  • I wear my jacket when it is cold.
  • This school is a nice place to learn.
  • The tree is tall.

This is where I want students to get in their sentence-writing before moving on:

  • Pecan, cherry, apple, or pumpkin… any type of pie is delicious!
  • My dad spends his Saturdays washing and shining up his candy apple red Jeep.
  • A puffy, hooded jacket is the first thing I reach for on chilly mornings.
  • My school, North Hills Elementary, has the best teachers and students.
  • The tall Redwood tree in my front yard is a welcome sight to visitors and makes my house look spectacular.

Students should write every single day!

My students write every single day!  

I vividly remember being in 5th grade myself and writing long papers on the most boring topics ever, like “The Science of Light” and “The History of Mapmaking.” Snooze fest! I vowed to never do that to my students. Instead, I took a different route.

Students absolutely need to learn to write full reports and five paragraph essays, but they don’t need to do this every week. They do, however, need to continually practice writing. I find that if I make writing assignments engaging, my students don’t complain and actually seem to enjoy writing.

I assign Weekly Writing Choice Boards . This writing has made all the difference in my classroom! Students are now excited about writing class. They see writing as a treat and a fun way to express their thoughts and opinions.

I hand out a new choice board every week and students must complete three assignments from the board. I don’t grade these on perfect grammar, spelling, or punctuation, instead I look for ideas and effort. Even imperfect writing practice will improve your students’ writing skills tremendously!

Enter your first name and email address below for a free set of 6 Weekly Writing Choice Boards! The pdf file will be sent directly to your inbox. As a bonus, you’ll become a member of my weekly VIP email club just for upper elementary teachers. 🙂

If you teach social studies in addition to writing, this blog post will give you a bunch of engaging social studies journal entries that will help you tie social studies into your writing instruction.

Teach your 5th grade students to proofread and edit!

Train students in proofreading and editing!  

Student need to practice proofreading and editing their writing (and the writing of other students) near the beginning of the school year.

Repeatedly practicing the steps of the proofreading/editing process will help your students to internalize this procedure. You’ll find that they will start to catch their mistakes earlier and more independently.

I find it valuable to establish and consistently use a common “proofreading language” in my classroom. It takes a little time up front to teach students the markings and their meanings but having a common system for proofreading will save loads of time throughout the school year.

This resource will give you an idea of the proofreading marks and practice that I use in my classroom: Proofreading and Editing Activity Pack

Asking your students to proofread and edit their own writing is a must but it’s also a good thing to have students pair up and look over a partner’s writing also. Your students will receive valuable feedback on their writing, editing ideas, and they’ll get to see some writing styles that are a little different from their own.

Teach 5 paragraph essays one piece at a time!

Teach five paragraph essays one piece at a time! 

Simple Paragraphs

Once my students are stellar sentence writers, we move to simple paragraphs. The simple paragraphs that I use with students consist of a topic sentence, three detail sentences, and a closing sentence.

Starting with simple paragraphs is much less threatening than jumping straight into five paragraph essays, so I find that spending some time helping students write excellent simple paragraphs is the perfect bridge into essays.

Additionally, we color-code our simple paragraphs. This allows students to think critically about what sentence types they have written and provides a visual for students (and for me) to see that all required parts of the paragraph are included.

The color-code I use with students:

  • Topic sentence – green
  • 3 detail sentences – yellow
  • Closing sentence – red

Planning and Writing Body Paragraphs

Once students are able to write great simple paragraphs, we dive into the planning and writing of body paragraphs.

This isn’t too much of a jump for students because the body paragraphs are structured similarly to the simple paragraphs that we have practiced over and over. The only difference is that they are using one prompt to write three body paragraphs.

Many teachers think they have to start with the first paragraph of the essay, the introduction paragraph. This isn’t what I recommend. Starting by teaching students to write the three body paragraphs helps to steer the rest of the essay.

Adding an Introduction Paragraph

Now that students are able to write their three body paragraphs, it’s time to add the introduction paragraph.

The introduction paragraph contains a hook, commentary, and a thesis sentence.

The hook is a sentence (or two) that “hooks” readers and builds interest in the upcoming essay. I teach my students several types of hooks, including quotes, questions, bold statements, or sharing a memory.

After the hook, I ask students to write a sentence or two of commentary on the hook or on the prompt in general. This helps to “bulk up” their introduction paragraph a bit and make it more interesting.

The final part of the introduction paragraph is the thesis sentence. Because students already learned to write the body paragraphs, crafting a thesis sentence is so much easier.

The formula for writing a thesis sentence: Restate the prompt briefly + detail 1 + detail 2 + detail 3.

Additionally, I teach transition teams at this point. Students need to use a transition word or phrase at the beginning of each body paragraph, so that’s where transition teams come in. Transition teams are sets of three transition words or phrases that work well together.

Examples of transition teams:

  • First, Second, Finally
  • To begin, To continue, To end
  • One reason, Another reason, A final reason

Adding a Conclusion Paragraph

When conclusion paragraph day finally arrives, my students are so excited because they can finally write an entire five paragraph essay.

In my opinion, conclusion paragraphs are super easy to teach because they only have two parts. Here’s the conclusion paragraph formula: Write the thesis sentence in a different way + add a closing thought.

I allow students to be creative with their closing thoughts. I tell them that this is the final thought that your readers will take with them, so it needs to relate well to your entire essay while being engaging and thought-provoking for readers. Some examples of closing thoughts are calls to action, quotes, personal opinions, and brief personal experiences.

Teach, Discuss, & Practice with Rubrics

I inform my students that from this point on in their school journey, they will be graded with rubrics fairly often, so this is a good time to learn about rubrics and become familiar with them.

I create or find five paragraph essay samples that are good, bad, and in-between. We read and examine the samples as a class and circle the applicable parts of the rubric. If students are able to grade a few assignments using a rubric, it’s not this unknown, scary thing anymore. 

Are you grading every single word and making a million corrections on students’ essays? I give you permission to stop doing that! 🙂

You are going to burn yourself out and get to where you hate grading and teaching writing. To be honest, your students will not become better writers when their papers are marked all over with suggestions in the margins.

Help! I need more support…

Please visit the following blog post for in-depth explanations and examples of my five paragraph essay teaching and grading process: 

Tips for Teaching and Grading Five Paragraph Essays

This resource will provide you with a full, scaffolded unit that will help you to teach the five paragraph essay process to students! Five Paragraph Essay Instructional Unit

Teaching students to write narrative, opinion, and informative essays

Narrative, Informative, and Opinion Essays

As much as we’d like to just have our students write simple, straightforward five paragraph essays all year, that’s just not feasible.

But I promise, once your students can crank out those five paragraph essays on simple topics, moving to other modes of writing is no sweat! 

In my classroom, we spend time learning to write opinion essays, narrative essays, and informative essays. 

I start with opinion writing because my students have a lot of opinions, haha! We channel those opinions into five paragraph essay format. 🙂

Teaching research reports to 5th grade students

Research Reports

The skills involved in writing a research report are valuable for 5th graders. They need to be able to judge the reliability of a source and cite their sources properly. 

Research reports also teach students to organize their ideas, take notes, make an outline, write a draft, and create a final report. 

I’d like to point you to the following blog post where I detailed my entire process for teaching research reports.

The Step-By-Step Guide to Teaching Research Reports

Teaching paired passages to 5th grade students

Paired Passages

5th graders are too young to compare two passages and write a response. Right?! 

No, this is not true at all. I think that reading paired passages and using them to craft a written response is a valuable skill for 5th graders. 

Steps to analyzing paired passages and writing an essay to answer a prompt:

First, dissect the prompt.

Second, closely read the paired texts.

Third, organize thoughts using the prompt.

The following blog post explains my paired passage writing steps in detail. Take a moment to check it out. You’ll be glad you did! 

How to Teach Writing Using Paired Passages

Sequence & Pacing for Teach 5th Grade Writing

My Sequence & Pacing for Teaching 5th Grade Writing

Don’t stress! This sequence and pacing guide is hyperlinked and ready to be sent to your email address. Go to the bottom of this blog post to request the guide.

1st Month of School

We start school in the middle of the month, so I only have two weeks to teach during the first month of school.

This is the rundown for the remainder of the month:

Month 1, Week 3

The first week of the school year is all about teaching and practicing procedures. Teach it right or teach it all year! 🙂

Classroom Procedures – I recommend you check out this blog post:  5 Tips for Establishing Procedures in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Welcome Activities –  Welcome to 5th Grade: First Week of School Activities

Blog Post – Back to School Writing Prompts for 5th Graders

Month 1, Week 4

During this week, I review and continue practicing procedures with students but we do go ahead and start working on writing.

I establish my expectations and procedures for my students’ Weekly Writing Choice Boards.

We set up writing notebooks together, including the table of contents, cover page, and an  About the Author  page. 

Obtain a writing sample

We start working on improving sentences.

2nd Month of School

Month 2, Week 1

We continue working on improving sentences.

Start proofreading/editing instruction and practice.

Month 2 , Week 2

Review the process for writing excellent sentences.

Finish proofreading/editing instruction and practice.

Month 2, Weeks 3-4

Writing simple paragraphs (include color-code)

3rd Month of School

Month 3, Weeks 1-2

Planning & writing body paragraphs (include color-code)

Month 3, Weeks 3-4

Teach introduction paragraphs

Writing introduction plus body paragraphs (include color code)

Transition teams

4th Month of School

Month 4, Weeks 1-2

Teach students how to write conclusion paragraphs.

Students will write their first full five paragraph essays this week.

Month 4, Weeks 3-4

Write 5 paragraph essays with a variety of basic prompts.

Have students proofread/edit other students’ essays.

Provide mini-lessons on grammar structure or other issues you are noticing in students’ writing.

5th Month of School

This is where our winter break falls, so I only have two weeks to teach this month.

This is a great time to review what we’ve been working on all year and assign some fun journal prompts.

Also, writing mini-lessons are good fillers for this time.

This Winter Writing Project is a student favorite right before winter break!

6th Month of School

Month 6, Week 1

When we come back from winter break, I like to teach the research report process. I spend a week teaching the process and giving students time to research while I’m there to help.

Month 6, Week 2

Student complete their research reports, including outlines, citing sources, and etc.

I ask my students to do super quick presentations on their research topics. It’s 1-2 minutes max. I don’t want them to read their reports aloud because that’s boring. Instead, I want them to quickly highlight what they learned about their topics and what was fascinating to them.

Month 6, Week 3

We review the five paragraph essay process and write/proofread/edit an essay with a simple prompt.

Month 6, Week 4

I start opinion writing this week. You’ll find that students will slide into opinion writing easily because they already know five paragraph essay structure.

7th Month of School

Month 7, Week 1

Continue working on opinion writing. By the end of this week, students should be able to write an opinion essay using a prompt.

Month 7, Weeks 2-3

We spend two weeks on narrative writing. By the end of the second week, students should be able to write a narrative essay using a prompt.

Month 7, Week 4

This week, I teach the process of writing an informative essay.

8th Month of School

Month 8, Week 1

Continue working on informative essays. Students should be able to write an informative essay using a prompt by the end of this week.

Month 8, Weeks 2-3

Teach students how to write an essay using paired passages.

For more information on how I teach the steps above, visit this blog post: How to Teach Writing Using Paired Passages

Month 8, Week 4

Now that students know the process of using paired passages, I provide a set of paired passages and ask students to answer prompts in a variety of genres, like opinion, narrative, informative, poetry, and etc.

This resource makes it easy:

Paired Passages with Writing Prompts and Activities Bundle

9th Month of School

Month 9, Week 1

Continue working on using paired passages to write in a variety of genres.

Talk about last minute standardized testing tips to help students with their writing tests.

The rest of the month is taken up with standardized testing, so I do a lot of review activities, free writing, and etc.

I do have a set of suspense stories that my students love to write during this month. Check them out here: Suspense Stories Bundle

10th Month of School

During this month, we are wrapping up the year. Students participate in multiple activities and field trips, so there’s not much teaching time.

If you are still feeling overwhelmed, don’t dismay. Instructing young, inexperienced writers is a challenge. Just work on one step at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself and your students. Once you’ve taught writing for a year or two, you’ll feel like an old pro. Promise! 

How I Teach 5th Grade Writing

If you’d like to keep this blog post for later, simply save this pin to your teacher Pinterest board!

Are you that teacher saying, “oh my goodness, please just give me the print ‘n go pages so that i can start teaching writing tomorrow” it’s all here for you:.

writing lessons for 5th grade

I’m not a teacher, perhaps in my heart I am. I am an older Mom who adopted late in life as God gave us our newborn in our 50’s! By His grace, we are healthy, fit, youngish 50’s LOL! I love your stuff and have always supplemented Fi’s education., for I find the California standards quite low. Now that I have her in a college-prep school (5th Grade) I find she is much more prepared because of your wisdom! Thank you. Sophia Joy is someone who has always had to work hard at school, but it is paying off! Thank you and God bless you richly for being so generous with your wisdom,it will all come back to you 100-fold! Sincerely, Susan, Sophia Joy’s Mom

Thank you so much, Susan! You certainly have a heartwarming story with your precious girl 🙂

Hello When you do the back to school journal prompts, where do you have students complete these? On single paper, google classroom?

Hi Sarah! Usually, I have students complete the prompts in their social studies interactive notebooks. This year, however, we were virtual at the beginning of the year, so I had students type their entries onto Google Docs.

Hi! I am a new 5th grade teacher, and I’m wondering if your school uses a particular writing curriculum? Your website has been so helpful – thank you!!

Hi Jenny! We don’t use a particular writing curriculum at my school. I use my own resources to teach writing. Please reach out to me at [email protected] if I can help or answer any questions for you 🙂

Do you have any resources in Spanish?

Hi Danielle! The only resources I have in Spanish are my Parent’s Guide to Reading resources, grades K-5.

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Help your 5th Grader Write a Great Essay

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Writing essays can be a daunting task for students. 5th-grade students have a strong foundation of writing skills to help them construct body paragraphs and express their ideas using complex sentences. Still, they may need an extra push to write confidently and expressively.

The most challenging task when writing an essay is starting the writing process and learning to be confident.

Helping students tackle the task and build their confidence in writing multiple types of essays such as a persuasive essay, an informational essay, or even a narrative essay such as short stories takes a lot of practice, focus, and support from instructors and parents.

Learning to Express Ideas

Pre-writing is a crucial step in the writing process. Fifth graders should be in a place in their writing journey where they can perfect all the pre-writing strategies before they even write a word of an essay.

This will set them up to successfully construct excellent five-paragraph essays consistently.

When your child sits down to write a five body paragraph essay, the very first thing they should do is read the prompt. Understanding what the prompt is asking for is the first step in being proactive about writing an excellent essay.

You want them to ponder these questions: am I writing a persuasive essay? Am I writing an essay on a topic requiring me to do my research? Will I need to list evidence? Am I writing a narrative story that requires figurative language?

How to Successfully Brainstorm An Essay

One excellent way to get the brainstorm rolling is to have your fifth-grade student utilize a graphic organizer such as a cluster map as a way to write down all the related words or small phrases they can think of about the prompt.

The organizer will help get their creative minds rolling until they write something they are interested in or perhaps even excited about exploring further.

Brainstorming is a crucial component of teaching writing. This first step should be the most relaxed, no-pressure section for the student.

As a fifth-grader, your child will have a good idea of how to brainstorm different ideas on paper, but an essential part will be to organize these ideas into something of an outline.

Through brainstorming, students learn to think creatively to answer the prompt. Sometimes logical thinking is also required. For example, with a persuasive essay, students must brainstorm their arguments and develop reasons or evidence to back up their claims.

Supporting this step will allow students to perfect the details of the content they’re writing about and give them the main idea for their entire essay.

How to Turn a Brainstorm into an Outline

Encouraging your fifth grader to write a quick outline in a way that’s organized according to the five-paragraph essay format will give them a solid foundation to write their first rough draft.

These pre-writing skills are crucial in turning students from simple sentence writers into detailed five-paragraph essay writers.

Five-paragraph essays are the standard way to construct an essay, including writing an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Using this format, your fifth grader should write a short and straightforward outline that showcases every paragraph’s main ideas and contents in logical order.

Instead of freewriting the essay off the top of their head, an outline in the five-paragraph essay format will help your fifth grader have a guide to help them construct the first draft of their essay and flesh out ideas when they write body paragraphs.

Constructing a 5 Paragraph Essay

Read below for a brief five-paragraph essay instructional unit to help you guide your child in writing an exceptional essay.

1) How To Write An Introduction

In the five-paragraph essay format, the introduction is vital in grabbing the reader’s attention and holding it throughout the essay.

When teaching writing, the introduction is explained as the initial place to set up the topic of the essay. It usually requires a direct address of the contents to follow in the form of a thesis.

A thesis statement is a sentence in the introduction that directly answers the prompt and has reasons and evidence for the writer’s claim. It’s like a short preview of what the students will write about in their body paragraphs.

Furthermore, students write the thesis at the end of the introduction paragraph and ensure it follows a specific sentence structure to make it stand out as the most critical part of the intro.

2) How To Write Body Paragraphs

An excellent way to help students be confident in their work is to help them build clear strategies or steps to tackle daunting parts of an essay, such as a body paragraph.

Acronyms are one good way to remember all the steps of constructing a remarkable body paragraph. For example, TEEA is a wonderful acronym to get your fifth grader started on the task.

TEEA stands for:

T: Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is the very first sentence of a body paragraph. It explains what your section is about and its main idea. Ideally, this should be one sentence long and directly explain the topic at hand.

For the second section, you will want your fifth grader to answer the following question: WHY are you talking about this topic or idea? Why is this important? This should be about 2 or 3 sentences long because you will want your child to use lots of details to support the idea in the topic sentence.

  E: Example

In the third section, the student should prove what they explained about their topic by giving a solid, real-life example. This can be 2-3 sentences. The key here is to make the example applicable to the topic and explanation.

A: Analysis

Lastly, the analysis explains how the example supports your topic. This will probably be 1 or 2 sentences.

The analysis is the most tricky part of a body paragraph. The best way to get your child to think about this is to emphasize the how question. How does your example prove you are right? How does the example relate to the topic?

Using TEEA, your child will be able to construct a clear and strong body paragraph for almost any prompt or topic.

3) How to Write A Conclusion

Lastly, to conclude an essay, students must think about what idea they want the reader to leave with after reading their essay.

To start, students can use their introductory paragraph as a guide. They should restate their essay topic or thesis differently.

Next, students should summarize the main points made in the body paragraphs.

After this step, students can play the “so what?” game. Have your fifth grader think about what they’ve written in the conclusion, then answer the question, “so what?” Why is this important? Why should anybody care?

The very last sentence of the conclusion is a fantastic place to answer the “so what” question and leave the readers with a good impression or the desire for more information.

Using this instructional guide, with practice, your 5th grader will be able to construct logically sound and impeccably organized essays in no time.

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

The Reading Ranch Method

Struggling writers can experience various difficulties in any step of the writing process. The Reading Ranch Intervention Program is a research-based program to help students strengthen their writing skills in an interactive and dynamic environment. Our curriculum prides itself on being an interactive writing curriculum proven through various studies to immensely help struggling writers. Contact us today if you’re looking for help with your child who struggles in school and at home because they are stuck when they write and unable to keep up with their peers. We offer either online or in-person programs we feel confident we have something just right for every family.

Kiran Gokal   is a freelance writer, teacher, and lover of the written word specializing in content articles, blog posts, and marketing copywriting. For the past three years, she’s been teaching bright young students all about reading and writing at The Reading Ranch®,  while also lending her writing skills to different businesses and non-profits in the education sector.

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How to Write a Fifth-Grade Essay

How to write a sixth-grade essay.

Essays in the fifth grade should be concise, clear and flow easily. Students need to be able to express their ideas with proper and effective word choice and use a variety of different sentence structures. Logical sequencing of main ideas should be evident throughout the essay. In the fifth grade, students learn to expand and elaborate on their ideas. They are describing and going more in-depth in their writing than in previous grades. Fifth-grade students are exposed to different styles and genres of writing, so their writing will begin to reflect the varied structures and purposes of writing.

Decide on an essay topic. Your teacher may provide an essay topic to explore or you may be able to come up with an idea of your own. Either way, you can decide from what angle you want to approach the topic. Keep the topic focused and narrow. The essay's information should fit easily within the length of the essay assigned by your teacher. Write down various ideas that occur to you as you prepare to write the essay. You can use a graphic organizer such as a cluster map of your thoughts or brainstorming to help you organize your ideas.

Write a thesis statement. The thesis statement is the main idea of the essay and it expresses what you want to tell the reader in one or two sentences.

Research the topic. Keep research within the bounds of the essay's topic so you don't waste time searching for and reading unnecessary material. Take notes of what is important and supports the thesis statement. Also keep track of where each piece of information is found so you can easily cite your sources if the teacher requires it.

Plan the essay. Write an outline that lists each section of the essay, including an introduction, middle and a conclusion. Paragraphs that support the thesis will be in the middle of the essay.

Write a first draft of the essay. The introduction should catch the readers' attention and contain the thesis statement. The middle will contain the information you found and your ideas about it. The conclusion should summarize your main points and tell readers why the topic is important. For example, if you're writing about the history of the Sputnik satellite launch in 1957, you could state in the conclusion that Sputnik helped to begin the space race between the former Soviet Union and the United States and it helped pave the way for the building of the International Space Station that is shared between the two countries today.

Look over your essay and make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes. Also pay close attention to how the essay is structured. Each paragraph should contain sentences that express the main idea of the paragraph. The paragraphs in the body should be arranged in a logical order, such as from least to most important or in a step-by-step order if you're writing a how-to essay. Make any changes you think are needed to make your essay clearer and then write out your final version when you are satisfied with it.

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  • Great Schools: Your Fifth Grader and Writing

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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How to Write A 5th Grade Level Essay

5th grade writing

There are four basic types of prompts for fifth grade students: narrative, persuasive, expository, and creative writing. 

Narrative Essay

A narrative essay requires them to tell a story, real or imagined, using descriptive writing to reflect on their experiences, explain them logically, and draw conclusions from them. The writing prompt will be something like this: Think about a time you did something that made you feel guilty. Describe what happened.

To answer this, your child will have to tell the story of a time they did something wrong and what the consequences were. They will likely make use of the “five senses” and discuss how they felt moment-to-moment as they describe the events. Dialogue is an important part of this, too; they may describe the conversation they had with their teacher or with you, confessing what they did and apologizing.

Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay is written to convince another person to agree with the writer or take action. The prompt will look something like this: What is your least-favorite food at the school cafeteria? Give three compelling reasons why your school should quit serving it. To answer this, your child needs to make sure to have three logical and persuasive reasons for why whatever food they choose is bad.

For example, they may hate the green beans they are given. The reasons they give don’t have to be particularly nuanced, but should still be realistic and logical. Their reasons may be that they are canned and therefore aren’t as nutritious as fresh, they are overcooked, and they make everyone’s breath smell bad. Their essay should also make a case for a replacement or better idea, such as serving fresh green beans or different vegetable options.

Expository Essay

An expository essay requires your child to explain something, like a how-to guide or providing facts about a topic. This essay prompt will look something like this: Your favorite book was made into a movie. Compare and contrast the film and book versions. To answer this, your child will need to point out the differences and similarities between the two works.

For example, the movie may have cut out a lot of scenes from the book or added new ones. Characters may dress differently or say different dialogue in the movie, or they may be perfect representations of how they look in the book. There shouldn’t be a list of similarities and differences; instead, your child should organize these comparisons in paragraphs that have a logical flow. For example, they may start by going through differences in the events of the two works and how the movie improves on certain plots, then discuss character differences and how they are better in the book, and finish with their ideas about which version tells the story better.

Creative Writing

Creative writing has your child use their story-telling skills while also practicing vital writing skills such as sequence and description. A creative writing prompt can look something like this: Write a story from your pet’s point of view. A creative writing prompt requires your child to consider things from a different perspective, and they may even write a poem or song instead of an essay, depending on their assignment.

To answer this prompt, they will need to consider what the world looks, sounds, and feels like from a very different view. It doesn’t have to be a perfect narrative, it can be the pet’s ideas and feelings about their life and how they feel about your child. Creative writing prompts are an opportunity for your child to stretch their imagination and try out different things in their writing.

If your child is having a hard time with these prompts, a way to help is to enroll them in Reading Genie. The program is designed to give your child practice writing while engaging them in fun topics and ideas. The teachers at Reading Genie give helpful and kind advice, and your child will have opportunities to get feedback from their peers to build their confidence.

You can also practice writing prompts with your child at home; they can be a lot of fun! Even if you don’t end up writing anything, discussing ideas with your child and how to approach certain prompts and questions can help get their minds active.

Genie Academy offers a range of after-school programs focused on enhancing skills in mathematics, literacy, composition, and coding. These educational services are available at various sites across New Jersey, such as Plainsboro , and are designed to cater to the learning needs of children from Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade.

Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/fifth-grade-writing-prompts-4171627

Topics: Essay , Writing Skills , Fifth Grade , paragraph writing , Writing Prompt

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How to write a perfect essay

Need to write an essay? Does the assignment feel as big as climbing Mount Everest? Fear not. You’re up to the challenge! The following step-by step tips from the Nat Geo Kids Almanac will help you with this monumental task. 

Sometimes the subject matter of your essay is assigned to you, sometimes it’s not. Either way, you have to decide what you want to say. Start by brainstorming some ideas, writing down any thoughts you have about the subject. Then read over everything you’ve come up with and consider which idea you think is the strongest. Ask yourself what you want to write about the most. Keep in mind the goal of your essay. Can you achieve the goal of the assignment with this topic? If so, you’re good to go.


This is the main idea of your essay, a statement of your thoughts on the subject. Again, consider the goal of your essay. Think of the topic sentence as an introduction that tells your reader what the rest of your essay will be about.


Once you have a good topic sentence, you then need to support that main idea with more detailed information, facts, thoughts, and examples. These supporting points answer one question about your topic sentence—“Why?” This is where research and perhaps more brainstorming come in. Then organize these points in the way you think makes the most sense, probably in order of importance. Now you have an outline for your essay.


Follow your outline, using each of your supporting points as the topic sentence of its own paragraph. Use descriptive words to get your ideas across to the reader. Go into detail, using specific information to tell your story or make your point. Stay on track, making sure that everything you include is somehow related to the main idea of your essay. Use transitions to make your writing flow.

Finish your essay with a conclusion that summarizes your entire essay and 5 restates your main idea.


Check for errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar. Look for ways to make your writing clear, understandable, and interesting. Use descriptive verbs, adjectives, or adverbs when possible. It also helps to have someone else read your work to point out things you might have missed. Then make the necessary corrections and changes in a second draft. Repeat this revision process once more to make your final draft as good as you can.

Download the pdf .

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  • How long is an essay? Guidelines for different types of essay

How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

Published on January 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper  or thesis .

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

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Essay length guidelines, how long is each part of an essay, using length as a guide to topic and complexity, can i go under the suggested length, can i go over the suggested length, other interesting articles, here's why students love scribbr's proofreading services.

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In an academic essay, the main body should always take up the most space. This is where you make your arguments, give your evidence, and develop your ideas.

The introduction should be proportional to the essay’s length. In an essay under 3000 words, the introduction is usually just one paragraph. In longer and more complex essays, you might need to lay out the background and introduce your argument over two or three paragraphs.

The conclusion of an essay is often a single paragraph, even in longer essays. It doesn’t have to summarize every step of your essay, but should tie together your main points in a concise, convincing way.

The suggested word count doesn’t only tell you how long your essay should be – it also helps you work out how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This should guide the development of your thesis statement , which identifies the main topic of your essay and sets the boundaries of your overall argument.

A short essay will need a focused, specific topic and a clear, straightforward line of argument. A longer essay should still be focused, but it might call for a broader approach to the topic or a more complex, ambitious argument.

As you make an outline of your essay , make sure you have a clear idea of how much evidence, detail and argumentation will be needed to support your thesis. If you find that you don’t have enough ideas to fill out the word count, or that you need more space to make a convincing case, then consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific.

The length of the essay also influences how much time you will need to spend on editing and proofreading .

You should always aim to meet the minimum length given in your assignment. If you are struggling to reach the word count:

  • Add more evidence and examples to each paragraph to clarify or strengthen your points.
  • Make sure you have fully explained or analyzed each example, and try to develop your points in more detail.
  • Address a different aspect of your topic in a new paragraph. This might involve revising your thesis statement to make a more ambitious argument.
  • Don’t use filler. Adding unnecessary words or complicated sentences will make your essay weaker and your argument less clear.
  • Don’t fixate on an exact number. Your marker probably won’t care about 50 or 100 words – it’s more important that your argument is convincing and adequately developed for an essay of the suggested length.

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how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

In some cases, you are allowed to exceed the upper word limit by 10% – so for an assignment of 2500–3000 words, you could write an absolute maximum of 3300 words. However, the rules depend on your course and institution, so always check with your instructor if you’re unsure.

Only exceed the word count if it’s really necessary to complete your argument. Longer essays take longer to grade, so avoid annoying your marker with extra work! If you are struggling to edit down:

  • Check that every paragraph is relevant to your argument, and cut out irrelevant or out-of-place information.
  • Make sure each paragraph focuses on one point and doesn’t meander.
  • Cut out filler words and make sure each sentence is clear, concise, and related to the paragraph’s point.
  • Don’t cut anything that is necessary to the logic of your argument. If you remove a paragraph, make sure to revise your transitions and fit all your points together.
  • Don’t sacrifice the introduction or conclusion . These paragraphs are crucial to an effective essay –make sure you leave enough space to thoroughly introduce your topic and decisively wrap up your argument.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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55 Writing Prompts For 5th-Graders That Are Enjoyable to Write

The fifth grade is a year of incredible change and growth for students.

For many, it is the last year of elementary school, and for some, it is the beginning of middle school.

In the fifth grade, learners are developing a more mature awareness of right and wrong and are more able to think abstractly.

The writing prompts for 5th-grade students below will not only be a fertile playground for curious minds but will be a way for learners to develop their own voices and ideas that will help shape their foundational skills.

Descriptive Writing Prompts

These are 5th-grade writing prompts that often contain the keywords “describe in detail” or “talk about how something felt, smelled, looked, or tasted”.

senses associated with descriptive writing prompts

Fifth graders show more interest in independent work, so it’s best to include independent descriptive writing tasks in your lessons. Here are some creative prompts that your 5th-graders can try.

  • Describe what you consider a good pet.
  • Describe someone that you envied.
  • Describe a famous person.
  • Describe your dream job.
  • Describe something you were scared of and how it made you feel.
  • Describe your elementary school.
  • Describe the favorite hang-out place of fifth graders.
  • Describe a fifth-grade classmate who loves to help others.
  • Describe your first best friend.
  • Describe the most beautiful place you’ve been to last year.

Narrative Writing Prompts

These are 5th-grade writing prompts that tell a fictional or personal narrative.

types of narrative writing

Keywords such as “tell about…” or “write a story” are often used for these creative writing prompts.

  • Write a story about an embarrassing moment that happened during 5th grade.
  • Tell a story that involves a superstitious belief.
  • Tell a story about an accident you’ve witnessed.
  • Write about your favorite moment so far in 5th grade.
  • Write a fictional story about a day in your life 10 years from now.
  • Write a story about a time you made a big mistake.
  • Write a story about a time you’ve forgotten something important.
  • Write a story about a funny moment in your life.
  • Write a fictional story inspired by a true event. Use real people in history as your main characters.
  • Imagine that your favorite teacher is a secret superhero. Write how you discovered their secret.

Expository Writing Prompts

student writing in school

These expository essays are written with a set purpose and a voice that fits an audience in mind.

These prompts use the keywords “why, how, what, and explain”. Essays that address problems and give solutions, tell cause and effect, and teach processes (how-to) are all subtypes of expository writing.

Problem and Solution Prompts

  • How can you solve the problem of heavy traffic in a big city?
  • Talk about a situation that annoys you and how you deal with it.
  • What’s one thing that can make you smile in the midst of a bad day? Explain why it makes your day better.
  • How can you encourage people to use less of their cell phones?
  • Your principal is seeking ideas on how to improve your school. Pick one change that will benefit fifth-graders and write why this is important.

Cause and Effect Prompts

  • What effects does having a best friend have on your life?
  • What are the effects of procrastination before an exam?
  • What are the effects of peer pressure?
  • Write an essay describing why some students cheat and the effects of it.
  • What happens when you sleep late for a week?

How-to Prompts

  • Give tips on how to make new friends and how to deal with new classmates.
  • Give tips to fourth-grade students on how to prepare for the fifth grade.
  • Give tips on how one can overcome being lazy on a busy day.
  • What do you do to overcome fear? Share tips with your fellow students.
  • How can a person fall asleep quickly?

Compare and Contrast Writing Prompts

Here are some prompts your students can discuss:

  • Football versus basketball
  • Ice cream versus cake
  • Pet cats versus pet dogs
  • Movies versus cartoons
  • Online class versus offline class

Persuasive Writing Prompts

These are writing prompts for 5th-grade students that attempt to convince an audience to take a specific point of view or action.

These essay topics for 5th graders should discuss both sides of an issue and express a preference for one. These opinionated writing prompts use the keywords “‘persuade”, “convince” and “why”.

  • Convince the Board of Education why beginning classes at a later time is a good or bad idea.
  • Convince the Board of Education why increasing or decreasing screen time during classes is beneficial.
  • What is the best way to spend an hour of free time without spending money? Try to convince your readers why this activity is the best among the rest.
  • Persuade your classmates on why they should stop teasing a fellow student. Explain why it’s important to treat others kindly and be considerate of others’ feelings.
  • What is the best pet to get? Persuade your 5th-grade classmates to your choice.
  • Your parents are thinking of sending you to a sports summer camp. Convince them why this is a good or a bad idea.
  • Persuade your parents why having cell phones can be beneficial for kids like you.
  • Persuade a special person in your life to buy you something that you consider “the perfect gift”.
  • Convince the school board that the new dress code policy is a good or bad idea.
  • Suggest one solution to the citizens’ committee to solve the littering problem in your area and persuade them to take action.

Bonus: Funny Writing Prompts

These funny essay topics for 5th-graders are for the difficult days when you just want your learners to have fun writing.

  • Make up a tale about the origin of thunder.
  • Imagine that you are someone’s pet animal. Write a story about your owners.
  • There’s a magical door in your room. Where does it lead to?
  • Write about running away with the circus that came to your town.
  • There was once a little girl who ate nothing but bananas. What happened to her?

Asking Students to Check Their Work

Before submitting their finished work, ask your students to make sure they’ve included all the necessary parts of an essay or story. Ask them to refer to this checklist:

  • Did I write the introduction?
  • Did I add details to my main points?
  • Did I write the conclusion?
  • Did I choose the best words?
  • Were my ideas properly organized?
  • Did I express myself clearly?

Jump In : Complement your 5th graders’ reading skills with reading comprehension activities to further motivate their creativity. Read my blog here — 11 Enjoyable 5th-Grade Reading Comprehension Activities That Smash Learning Goals .

Related Questions

How can i help students with writer’s block.

Add a few more keywords to your journal prompts. An anchor chart displaying the basic essay or story outline can also help.

How can I help students who struggle to finish writing on time?

Use a visible timer in class so students can manage their time while writing.

What can I do to help students who struggle to write the introduction or conclusion of their essays?

Encourage them to create an outline prior to actual writing so they can visualize how their essays will begin, develop and end.

How long should a writing activity take?

I suggest giving students ample time to write, about 30 minutes to one hour at the minimum.

How can I bring out and enhance the creative skills of my students?

Along with your written 5th-grade journal prompts, you can also show picture prompts and even play related background sounds or music to set the mood for creative writing.

Final Thoughts

I hope you come back over and over again to these writing prompts for 5th-graders to give your students lots of opportunities to practice writing.

To give your students a good start at creative writing, practice setting specific parameters with clear instructions to work with. You’d be surprised how this will significantly improve their writing skills.

And finally, remember to only choose prompts and writing assignments that align with your learning objectives.

Last Updated on July 24, 2022 by Emily

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5th Grade Argumentative Essay Example

Topic: Should Students Wear School Uniforms?

Thesis Statement: The implementation of uniforms in school presents the dilemma of promoting discipline and equality but also potentially limiting self expression of students and imposing financial burden on the family demanding a careful consideration of inclusive decision making that strikes a balance for the educational institutes and the community.


how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Argument 1 in Favour – Fosters a Sense of Equality

Argument 2 in favour – reduces peer pressure, argument 3 in favour – enhances safety and security, argument 4 against – limits self-expression, argument 5 against: cost and maintenance, the last say.

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This is Izzah, a content writer and editor who creates SEO-friendly content and has experience in academic writing. Backed by 10 years of experience in writing and editing, she is equipped with the skill to create content that is backed by thorough research and has impeccable structure.

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We are doing Great Books and DD is writing literature analysis essays on topics related to the books (not research papers).

What length (word count) would you expect from a 9th grader?

Thanks - English is the one subject where I have no good feeling for expectations (I am not a native speaker and did not go through the US educational system.)

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Hmm.I don't think I would concentrate so much on word count as content.Things I would focus on

Having a strong thesis statement

Having examples (at least two) from the book.

Structure of essay- each paragraph states a point that supports my thesis and all sentences apply to that point (probably require 2-4 paragraphs) And an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph

Pam L in Mid Tenn

I'm not into word count but quality count. :)

That said, I expect my high schoolers to write 2 to 3 pages for most writting assignments. (single spaced.... although my dd18's college papers are to be double spaced).

I go easy on the first paper. In fact, most "first" assignments this year will not be graded. I will use them to demonstrate expectations for the remaining papers.

From Ms. Bauer's writing overview pdf file she suggests 2 one-page pursuasive papers per week in history, lit, or science. and two 4 -8 page research papers for a 9th grader.

Things I would focus on   Having a strong thesis statement   Having examples (at least two) from the book.   Structure of essay- each paragraph states a point that supports my thesis and all sentences apply to that point (probably require 2-4 paragraphs) And an introductory paragraph and concluding paragraph

Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort.

Right now DD is working on an essay about the use of epithets in Homer's Iliad. However, it is not intended to be a persuasive essay: she does not argue a thesis that can be right or wrong. She examines the recurrence of epithets, their function, where certain characteristics of persons come from, how it can be used to fix the meter - but it is more explanatory about a specific stylistic tool.

These may be dumb questions; however, in my home country the writing education was not as formulaic as in the US. I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.

Thanks for all the help.

My dd just finished her first 5-paragraph essay for this year (9th). We started out "easy" (I'm NOT a good writer, so, sad to say, her writing experience hasn't been very strong), with a 350 word essay. From here on out they'll get longer/more in depth. The quality goes without saying. It's definitely required! But, for her, the length of what she had to write was important to know, so that's what we did. I know it's not long, but it was a great learning experience for her, so we're happy with it! :D

Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort. Right now DD is working on an essay about the use of epithets in Homer's Iliad. However, it is not intended to be a persuasive essay: she does not argue a thesis that can be right or wrong. She examines the recurrence of epithets, their function, where certain characteristics of persons come from, how it can be used to fix the meter - but it is more explanatory about a specific stylistic tool.   These may be dumb questions; however, in my home country the writing education was not as formulaic as in the US. I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.   Thanks for all the help.

Oh, I hope I didn't say something that made you think it was a dumb question. It was a very good question. If you wanted to say a specific amount I would say the essay you described would take 2 pages. But I would also focus on making sure she answered the questions completely.

I posted this almost a year ago. Perhaps some of it will help. Btw- Dd is now in her last year of undergrad school. She graduates in May as a Poli-Sci major. Her plan is to begin grad school next year and then do her PhD. She wants to teach college students.



Thanks- I know about the basic structure of the persuasive essay, but I am wondering whether there really is only one kind, since most writing instruction I have seen focuses on this sort.   I have never in my life written a 5 paragraph essay (I did not know such a thing existed until I started homeschooling) - even though I'm not an uneducated person. We certainly wrote theses essays, but we also wrote a lot of other stuff and the rules were never this rigid. - Just so you can understand why I am asking this stuff.    

The five paragraph essay evolved as a pedagogical tool for teachers who had not had instruction on how to teach writing, and were not confident writers themselves. It also evolved hand in hand with the essay components of the SAT and similar tests. The nearly exclusive emphasis on this format in US schools is unfortunate, because it has shifted from being one tool, one approach, to being just about the only way many kids are taught -- not only to write, but to think about writing. And that is very limiting.

You might look at some college composition textbooks to get an idea of how other forms of essay writing are taught at the freshman level. Then you can play with these and adjust them for your daughter's age and schedule constraints.

Other things I've found useful include the freshman writing page on the University of Chicago's website, and the New York Times's educational section, which includes a number of examples of different kinds of essays that have appeared in the paper and lesson plans to go along with them.

I'll try to find and post these sites again, but I tend to lose my own post while searching -- so I'll do this first and then do the sites separately.

Another wonderful resource is the series put out each year: Best Essays of 2009 (or whatever year it happens to be). I also have Best Non-Fiction Writing of _____. Both have many very different examples of structure, form, style, etc.

A long time ago it seems to me I came across a lovely article called something like Reclaiming the Exploratory Essay... I'll have a look for that one, too. I kept it for years and loved it, but have no clue where it is now.



If this link doesn't work (I just can't figure out the Times links), you can google the title: "Ten Ways to Develop Expository Writing Skills with the New York Times"

These two resources are wonderful.

And this may, or may not, be the article I remember:

Thomas Newkirk, Critical Thinking and Writing: Reclaiming the Essay

Eric ED 309457

Thank you so much for the help.

If anybody else is interested in the link: the address of the U Chicago writing program has changed a bit:


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Soup to nuts

Chicken Soup for the Soul was almost as big as the Bible. Then it lost its way.

how long should an essay be for a 5th grader

Even after everything I'd learned about Chicken Soup for the Soul, I still ended up ugly-crying in a hotel ballroom alongside 206 other sniffling adults, my mind a mess of guilt and shame, contemplating how I and I alone was to blame for every problem I've ever had.

"Everything in your life you created, promoted, or allowed," the man on stage was saying. "Everything that happens to you is for a reason. It's a gift."

Gooey bands of mucus stained my T-shirt. Everything was all my fault, I saw now. Even the drunken driver who'd left me with a brain injury I'd spent the past five years recovering from. It must have been a Lesson From The Universe, an experience I deserved.

I'd come to the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach, California, for a "Breakthrough to Success" weekend last fall with Jack Canfield, the spiritual teacher and mastermind behind the best-selling nonfiction book series of all time: "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Back in the early 1990s, Canfield told us, he meditated for several days to conjure a title for an anthology of short, feel-good tales he hoped would improve readers' lives by demonstrating how our thoughts create our circumstances. The original collection of 101 stories, interspersed with motivational quotes, poems, proverbs, and cartoons, would go on to sell 11 million copies and become a cultural touchstone, read by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Tony Soprano's mistress.

What followed was hundreds of sequels and spinoffs, everything from "Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul" to "Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul" to the bestseller I read cover to cover, several times, in sixth grade: "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul." By 2003, research found that more young readers seeking solace turned to the Chicken Soup series than to the Bible.

Like most self-help books, "Chicken Soup" offers the reassuring message that anyone is capable of anything — that with the right attitude, you can heal yourself, find love, and, as the translated Indonesian title promises, "Become Rich and Happy." Each book brims with advice that Russ Kamalski, Chicken Soup's former chief operating officer, told me appealed to "moms that were working and picking up their kids in the carpool line and wanted to read an inspiring story to make their life feel a little bit better."

But this emphasis on individual agency comes with a dark side. If you are the author of your own fate, you are also to blame for your own suffering — no matter how far beyond your control it may seem. Canfield calls it taking 100% responsibility. "A lot of people get cancer," he says. "But I always ask them: Did you eat an organic diet? Did you drink filtered water? You're responsible for maintaining your ignorance. You're responsible for not making enough money to be able to afford the stuff you need to be able to buy."

For millions of readers, myself included, these aspects of Canfield's ethos amounted to a subliminal message, filtered through anecdotes about overcoming obstacles and telling your children you love them. "Chicken Soup" remained remarkably popular for years, coasting along on an upbeat, family-friendly image. But then the company began to pivot, stretching and twisting a lucrative brand to the point of absurdity. What began as Chicken Soup for the Soul board games and calendars turned into Chicken Soup for the Soul chocolates and Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food. After Canfield and his cofounder sold the company in 2008, the new owners experimented with Chicken Soup for the Soul barbecue sauce and even, briefly, Chicken Soup for the Soul soups. Then they ventured even further afield, spinning off Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, going public on the Nasdaq , and buying up film distributors and streaming services like Redbox and Crackle. Today, Chicken Soup for the Soul somehow owns the North American rights to classic Laurel and Hardy films and the original "Little Rascals" shorts.

Even to experts in corporate branding, Chicken Soup for the Soul's trajectory has been baffling. "The whole point of having a brand is that it's kind of a consistent signal of something," says Americus Reed, a marketing professor at Wharton. "This is so wildly different from what it started as. It just creates this very cognitively dissonant idea in your mind, that your mind naturally wants to solve. Like, why are they doing this? What's going on here?"

I first searched the internet for Chicken Soup for the Soul late one night, while a bit stoned. It was like checking up on a middle-school classmate I hadn't thought of in years. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that Chicken Soup is not only a publicly traded company, but one that's buying up the DVD kiosks outside convenience stores, charging $2.25 for rentals of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods." What happened to the guilty-pleasure read I'd devoured in sixth grade? I had to learn more, to understand what was going on with the company and how it might have influenced younger me. I didn't consider how Chicken Soup for the Soul might influence the current me, but maybe I should have.

At 79, Jack Canfield is a paunchy boomer with an unnervingly calm, approachable energy. At his Breakthrough to Success event, I thought I might see glimpses of the man his son describes in his memoir as "the lying, cheating, conniving, manipulative, inhuman son of a bitch who had left my mom when I was one and she was six months pregnant." Instead I was quickly ensconced in the warmth emanating from Canfield, his eight employees, and his 20 volunteer assistants — what some in attendance called "the Canfield family."

It was a family that cost $997 to join for a long weekend, or $1,497 if you wanted VIP status. At one point I heard a woman say, "She was getting the technology through her prayer work," and that about sums up the crowd: New Age and entrepreneurial. One couple came on their honeymoon; folks flew in from Nigeria, Japan , and France; some guy brought his 12-year-old, a boy I overheard telling an adult he'd just met, "Yeah, that's a great market."

Every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., we gathered in the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency ballroom to listen to Canfield. We reflected on our careers, our health, our relationships, our finances. We set goals. We turned to strangers and said: Who are you? Who do you pretend to be? What is missing in your life? We held hands and made sustained eye contact. We went back to our rooms each night, looked into the mirror, gave ourselves a high five, and said, "I love you." We held a vision-board party. We watched a video about a guy who said he was told by doctors he'd never walk again and then, of course, walked again.

Canfield learned persistence early. He grew up poor in Ohio and West Virginia, with a violent father and a religious stepfather, and went on to attend Harvard. After teaching for a year at a predominantly Black high school, he went to work for the insurance magnate W. Clement Stone, who began each day by saying: "I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific!" Stone taught Canfield about the Law of Attraction, a 19th-century jumble of mysticism, individualism, and pseudoscience. The Law of Attraction basically asserts that anything you concentrate on or wish for will become reality. Today we might call it "manifesting." As Canfield told us, "Everything you think about and feel strongly about, you're going to bring about." Every decade or so, someone repackages this idea and makes a ton of money, from Napoleon Hill 's "Think and Grow Rich" (1937) to Norman Vincent Peale 's "The Power of Positive Thinking" (1952) to "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

It's a seductive mindset. I've spent years ranting about how cars and roads should be safer. But once I was in Canfield's presence, his logic seemed infallible: I was the person who had capsized my life in the wake of my head injury, not the drunken driver who hit me. Over three days in the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency ballroom, I cried 11 times. The Law of Attraction stirs up all your insecurities, and just when you take a nosedive into feeling worthless, it scoops you up and tells you that you are in total control of what happens next.

Canfield began running seminars like the one I attended long before Chicken Soup for the Soul existed. He always longed to reach more people. The path that led him there began in 1980, when he attended a session at a holistic health conference called "How to Triple Your Income and Double Your Time Off in Two Years or Less." It was run by someone just as obsessed with the Law of Attraction as Canfield was, a guy named Mark Victor Hansen.

Hansen is like a terrifyingly peppy windup toy, the kind of indefatigable salesman you might end up buying something from just to make him go away. "He would come in like a cyclone," recalls Kamalski, Chicken Soup's former chief operating officer, while Canfield would remain even-keeled: "They're yin and yang." Canfield is more "analytical," Hansen more "creative." Canfield is suspicious of organized religion, preferring occult traditions like Kabbalah, while Hansen practices a nondenominational, prosperity-gospel-adjacent Christianity. Despite their temperamental differences, the two men became good friends and began having lunch every Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

When we speak on the phone, Hansen bombards me with factoids and anecdotes, most of which — like the woman who helped 12 million children "get out of abuse" — seem exaggerated at best. Now 76, Hansen describes himself as a "visionary" who has "studied everything" and is working with "all the top AI guys in the world." At one point he mentions a recent interaction with "the king of Mali" and says, "Remember, there are no bookstores in Mali." (There is not currently a monarchy in Mali, and the country has plenty of bookstores.)

Canfield tells me he considers Hansen's hyperbole the product of a bad memory and too much enthusiasm: "Detail was not his strength, let's put it that way." When I mention Canfield's assessment to Hansen, he compares himself to Mark Twain. "I'm a provocateur," he says. "Some people go, 'He's full of crap.'"

After years on the motivational-speaking circuit, Canfield decided he wanted to compile the most-affecting stories he'd heard into a book, without saying directly what you were supposed to learn from them. "For me, when a story has a lesson and you don't beat people over the head with it, they remember it," he says. Hansen loved the idea. They asked many of the motivational speakers they knew to contribute their best story, and in 1991 they set off for New York to make their fortune.

The tale that Hansen and Canfield tell about their success follows the same structure as a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" story. Two outsiders have a brilliant idea (heart-warming stories that illustrate the Law of Attraction). All the so-called experts (the publishing companies in New York) look down on them. They're rejected over and over (33 times, if you asked in 1998 ; "nearly 100" times, if you asked in 2014 ; 144 times, if you ask today). And yet, through tremendous will and perseverance, they somehow manage to bring their little book to the public, not only reaping acclaim and huge financial rewards but validating their unshakable belief in themselves.

Another way of telling the story is that Canfield and Hansen went booth to booth at a publishing convention in Anaheim until they found a Florida-based press they paid to print the first 20,000 copies of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" at $6 a copy. Then they turned around and sold the shit out of those copies, using all the sales techniques they'd learned as motivational speakers: requiring each audience member to buy multiple copies, say, or selling copies at bakeries and mortuaries. In 1994, a little over a year after the book came out, it became a bestseller.

Subsequent installments practically wrote themselves. Thousands of readers mailed in their own inspirational stories, hoping to be included in "A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul," then "A 3rd Serving," "A 4th Course," "A 5th Portion," and "A 6th Bowl." "We had a user-generated machine before user-generated content was really in existence," Kamalski says. Reader panels evaluated the stories, selecting 101 per book, and then Hansen and Canfield would read and arrange them. Soon they were putting out four books a month, with each "Chicken Soup for the ___ Soul" title zeroing in on an aspect of their target demographic: Girl's, Preteen's, Teenage, Sister's, Woman's, Christian Woman's, Working Woman's, African American Woman's, Girlfriend's, Bride's, Expectant Mother's, Mother's, Mother & Daughter, Mother and Son, New Mom's, Every Mom's, Nurse's, Teacher's, Military Wife's, Caregiver's, Breast Cancer Survivor's, Grandma's.

"Even the books that were for men — Golfer's Soul, Fisherman's Soul," Kamalski told me, were being bought by women, as "gifts for men."

The literary establishment responded with disdain. Wayne Booth, a literature professor at the University of Chicago, wrote that he felt "arrogantly envious of the fame and mildly contemptuous of the work." Booth was disturbed to see "Chicken Soup for the Soul" implying that a single person's feelings could bring about world peace; the series also emphasized, per the Law of Attraction, that systemic forces do not disadvantage certain lives more than others. The first story in the original book recounts how a teacher in "the Baltimore slums" loved her students so much that 176 of 180 went on to achieve "more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen." Was this even true? Hard to say. After settling a plagiarism lawsuit over an essay in a 1997 book for what Canfield describes as "some minor amount of money," he and Hansen began asking contributors to sign a pledge affirming that the stories they had submitted were true. They did no further checking.

After some 315 million copies circulated in China, "chicken soup" became Chinese slang for uplifting stories with no substance.

In her book "Smile or Die," Barbara Ehrenreich argues that the "mandatory optimism" pushed by "Chicken Soup for the Soul" actually makes people feel more lonely, miserable, and apathetic. Research suggests that daydreaming about success is less likely to lead to action and that increased self-esteem typically leads only to "enhanced initiative and pleasant feelings," not to better grades or happier relationships. David Gray, a historian at Oklahoma State, told me he sees "Chicken Soup for the Soul" as part of a rise in motivational rhetoric and "neoliberal mysticism" that dovetailed with a decline in job security, medical benefits, and wages for American workers . It's not hard to see how the Chicken Soup mindset benefits employers. According to Canfield's philosophy, anything you don't get in your career is your own failure to manifest what you want — not the product of larger economic forces outside your control.

Still, the money kept coming in, and Canfield and Hansen kept hustling new products, the most successful of which was Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food, capitalizing on the deluge of "Chicken Soup" stories about various furry friends. The company also secured a record-setting book-licensing deal to export "Chicken Soup" to China. But the books were not as well received in the new market. After what Canfield said was some 315 million copies circulated in China, including many in schools, "chicken soup" became Chinese slang for uplifting stories with no substance, or advice that makes you feel better but doesn't solve your problems.

Then, in 2005, Canfield allowed an Australian film crew to attend a conference he'd organized for motivational speakers. The footage was featured in "The Secret," a documentary that jump-started a global phenomenon, once again selling audiences on the Law of Attraction and the promise of wealth. A book version of "The Secret" went on to sell more copies than the original "Chicken Soup" — and sparked far more controversy. On "Saturday Night Live," Amy Poehler portrayed the book's author as callously telling Kenan Thompson's character, a refugee fleeing the Darfur genocide, "I know this is hard for you to hear, but your outlook is what's hurting you."

"Chicken Soup" evaded this kind of criticism — a crucial advantage once Canfield and Hansen decided to sell the business, in 2007. "It's hard to let go of something that's producing a lot of money," Canfield says, but "I woke up one morning and it wasn't doing it for me anymore." Hansen, who was going through an expensive divorce, says God told him to sell. Canfield says they wound up getting $63 million for Chicken Soup for the Soul. "He sold his baby," says Patty Aubery, Canfield's business partner. "And he got a good ransom."

The best part of being in the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency ballroom was the hugs. Every day we did dozens and dozens of full-body hugs, based on detailed instructions from Canfield: press inward from shoulders to hips, left ear to left ear, heart against heart, no back-patting, no picking up and twirling. Some hugs were long and fragrant, some were short and distant, but the cumulative effect of embrace after embrace felt amazing, like a sober Burning Man. We were safe in Canfield's glow, safe to reveal our deepest hopes and vulnerabilities and expect to be met with love and understanding.

This compassion was intoxicating. Anything felt possible. We learned about his past students who doubled their income in two years, who quadrupled their income, who became billionaires, who went from being homeless to being worth $3 million and owning three Rolexes. "It's not about money. It's about finding your life's purpose," he told us. "I'm not saying you have to 10x your income," he said — though that's what he did, in his own life. The more I heard him and his volunteer assistants use the phrase "double your income," the more I began to think I'd be so much happier if I could just ... double my income.

I felt so supported and electrified by my new community that I was vehemently taken aback when I encountered someone hostile, someone who listened with obvious boredom as I talked about my brain injury, then changed the subject to ask, "What do you think about feminism?" I decided I hated this person for puncturing the beautiful bubble we had created, and I'd hate him for the rest of my life.

Except! Then Canfield explained that resentment causes cancer. Something about the alkaline state of the body and raising your vibration and — well, things were getting a little weird now, but I really didn't want cancer! So I tried to forgive this man, even as he stood up two days in a row to thank Canfield for blurbing his book and to say, by the way, had we heard about his book? But then we were chanting at our fingers "Grow longer!" and marveling when they seemingly did, and then we were visualizing ourselves on a magic carpet going up a mountain to a temple where we met a guardian angel, and then we were all hugging again, and then we were listening to two hours of testimonials from the volunteer assistants about why we should sign up for the next level of training, which cost $14,997, or for two smaller retreats and monthly Zoom workshops, which cost $24,997.

"Don't let any of that negative internal self-talk stop you," Canfield told us. "Most of us are living in a cell we created, and the key is right there." These prices were a special deal, we learned, and would rise as soon as the weekend ended.

At lunch on the last day, I ran into a stylish woman in the hotel lobby. She asked if I was signing up for more training.

"No," I told her. "I can't afford it."

"Oh yeah, me neither," she said, though I could tell she was thinking about it. Signing up for more training would put her into debt. "I've got two cents," she said, "and I'm spending five." But the weekend had filled her with a sense of belonging and friendship, and she wanted to keep that feeling going.

We went in after lunch and saw that everyone who had signed up for the advanced programs was on stage taking a photo: 20 people committing to $14,997 and another 21 committing to $24,997. The stylish woman was not among them, but I noticed a kind middle-aged man I'd spoken to at length during an earlier activity. I knew this man was already in significant credit-card debt and didn't have an income. I looked up at him standing on stage, smiling, arms around his new family, and I felt very, very sad.

Canfield and Hansen sold Chicken Soup for the Soul to Bill Rouhana and Amy Newmark, a married couple. The new owners shifted the company both physically and ideologically, from Southern California to Greenwich, Connecticut — from kooky self-realization to shiny financial maneuvering.

Rouhana and Newmark met in the 1990s . At the time, Newmark was managing a hedge fund that invested in a telecommunications company Rouhana had started called Winstar. Winstar raised billions of dollars on the stock market before going bankrupt in 2001. The man who bought it out of bankruptcy later called the purchase one of the worst business mistakes he'd ever made, and told the Washington Post that Winstar had continued to charge customers after they canceled their service, apparently to convince Wall Street investors the company was growing faster than it really was. Rouhana and Winstar's leadership later settled a class-action lawsuit and a related case for $25 million that alleged they had "engaged in covert practices designed to benefit themselves at the expense of the Company and its investors" and "routinely encouraged or tacitly allowed sales personnel to engage in overt sales falsification, in a deliberate effort to overstate sales."

The new owners shifted Chicken Soup both physically and ideologically, from Southern California to Connecticut — from kooky self-realization to shiny financial maneuvering.

With Chicken Soup, Rouhana saw an opportunity. "Chicken Soup for the Soul is just thought of as a positive brand," he later explained. "Of all the things I've seen, it probably had the most positive reaction from people, and no negative reaction." Over the years the company had partnered with major brands, like "American Idol" and NASCAR, and branched out into a wide range of licensed products. Rouhana was particularly struck by the popularity of Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food. "Pet food, books — there is a lot of room between those two things that you could fill in with branding that might be successful," he said. (Rouhana declined to be interviewed for this story.)

The company continued to compile new books, churning out another 200 titles. But with the publishing industry in decline, Rouhana turned his attention to producing uplifting content for Hollywood. Working out of the company's headquarters, which he moved to a suburban office above a CVS, he finagled a partnership with Ashton Kutcher. But over several years, through 2016, he wound up releasing only two shows; one, called "Hidden Heroes," secretly taped people performing acts of kindness, like a wholesome version of Kutcher's notorious prank show "Punk'd."

Then Rouhana hit on a way to bring Chicken Soup to the next level. He took advantage of a new securities provision called Regulation A+ that allowed small companies to bypass the stringent reviews associated with an initial public offering and sell shares to pretty much anyone. The goal was to enable average folks to share in the early-stage profits typically reserved for large banks and the wealthy. But the Consumer Federation of America later called Regulation A+ "an experimental online marketplace" that brought together "inexperienced issuers with unsophisticated investors" who harnessed "the power of the Internet to hype stocks." Other companies that went public under Regulation A+ involved UFOs and flying cars.

To a certain extent, selling stock felt like the same old Chicken Soup for the Soul promise: Buy these shares that might help you become rich because this reminds you of this brand that made you feel like you could become rich. With Kutcher's name attached, Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment raised $30 million in 2017, in what was described as the biggest crowdsourced IPO of all time. Shares of CSSE opened at $9.25.

With the cash infusion, Rouhana took the company in a new direction. As Hindenburg Research, a forensic financial analysis firm, explained : "Rouhana has voting control over the public company and similarly has control over the ultimate parent, thereby giving him virtually unmitigated control of the entire corporate structure." He began buying up free, ad-supported streaming services, envisioning a future when customers would grow tired of paying for so many subscriptions and go back to watching TV with commercials. His biggest move came in 2019, when he initiated a two-part deal to buy Crackle from Sony Pictures Television. When the deal was complete, shares of CSSE spiked to $42.39.

Rouhana took advantage of the moment. The company sold $75 million worth of stock, causing the share price to tumble. That same month, according to Zillow and Connecticut public filings, Rouhana spent $3.4 million on a lakefront home, which had 10 bathrooms, a wine cellar, a fountain, a free form pool, and a spa with a footbridge to a "private island."

All these years later, Chicken Soup for the Soul still had the power to make its owners lots of money. Then someone crashed the party.

In May 2022, a Canadian day trader named Kevin saw a post on social media about how Chicken Soup was about to acquire Redbox, the DVD-rental-kiosk company. Reddit reacted with incredulity. "Huh," one person wrote. "Apparently both of these companies still exist." Kevin, however, saw a perfect opportunity for people to get together and screw over some Wall Street bigwigs.

Kevin, who had worked in Wells Fargo's lending department, saw himself as smarter than the masses on Reddit. A year earlier he'd watched with derision as a loose confederation of online traders became fixated on boosting the video-game retailer GameStop, crusading to bring down a multibillion-dollar hedge fund. "All they knew how to do was hold one stock 'to da moon,'" he messaged me. (He spoke on the condition I not use his last name, to protect his privacy.) But when he looked into the details behind Chicken Soup's pending deal with Redbox, Kevin got so excited that he started his own YouTube channel. "You've never seen anything like this, in the history of the market," he wrote below his first video.

When Chicken Soup announced the merger, Redbox shares were trading at about $6. But the fine print specified that once the deal went through, Redbox shares would convert to Chicken Soup shares, making them worth about $1 . Institutional investors had decided to short Redbox stock, betting that the merger would happen and the share value would go down. But Kevin and his online compatriots wanted to push Redbox stock as high as possible, creating a "short squeeze" that would undercut the plutocrats who predicted the price would fall, causing them to lose money. "Take the box to the moon and make the soup Pay!" one Reddit user wrote.

Kevin began posting three videos a day about Chicken Soup and Redbox. He put together a spreadsheet tracking who said they owned Redbox shares, to calculate their leverage against the ruling class. "They want you to have two and three jobs," he told his followers. "They want you to struggle in life."

Since last summer, shares of Chicken Soup have stayed below $1, dipping to as low as 15 cents.

As more people jumped in, Redbox's share price rose from $10 to over $18. In response to the volatility, all the major brokerages took away the ability to buy options in Redbox. "We're getting duped!" Kevin fumed on YouTube. But it was too late. Within a month, shares were down to $4.37. Chicken Soup's acquisition of Redbox closed on August 11, 2022. The populist uprising had failed.

"So basically we lose our money 😞" wrote MangoSea2615.

"It's possible we're in a completely fraudulent system," posted Reddit user ItsAllJustASickGame.

Rouhana was thrilled that the deal closed, saying in a statement, "I've been looking forward to the day Redbox would become part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment family — and today is that day." A few months after the merger, shares of CSSE surpassed $12, and the company sold off another $10.3 million worth of stock . Then the share price began to fall. This past January, with the streaming services it had hoped to dethrone still going strong, the company temporarily suspended dividend payments to its shareholders. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is no longer a company trying to help moms in the carpool line feel better about themselves. It's a zombie brand, staggering ever forward.

"When a company goes public, part of the value is the brand," says Reed, the Wharton professor. "You're hoping that the brand value is going to synergistically correspond to increasing trajectories of upward stock prices." Since last summer, shares of CSSE have stayed below $1, dipping to as low as $0.15. On March 25, 2024, according to SEC filings, Nasdaq notified the company that it was delisting Chicken Soup from the stock market.

After I got my head injury, I stumbled through those first blurry years in survival mode. I messed up relationships, missed opportunities, and was generally miserable for other people to be around, demanding we turn off the music or weeping unexpectedly about Meghan Markle. I learned, above all, not to push myself. If I needed to sleep late and stare into space all afternoon in order to get an hour of writing done, then that was that. Forcing myself to concentrate or be in noisy places when I wasn't feeling well would just cause my symptoms to escalate.

But when I got home from the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency ballroom and looked through my notes and my workbook and my vision board, I realized that Canfield's entire point is to push yourself. I had written detailed timelines for everything from going camping more to deciding whether I want to have children to, yes, doubling my income. I really wanted to be this confident and more productive version of myself. I really did feel invigorated by the experience. But I still have headache days. And now, instead of accepting that I wasn't feeling well and giving myself time to rest, I was freaking out. I couldn't stop equating being sick with being lazy.

When I got Canfield on the phone, I asked him about the idea that there's always a reason or a lesson for illness, for acts of violence, or even for the deaths of young children. Does he ever struggle with this part of the Law of Attraction?

"I used to," he tells me. "I don't anymore." When someone has cancer at six and dies, he explains, it might be because their "mother's going to need to learn how to let go and not be attached." It's something he's come to accept. "Sometimes people come in and they have a short life and they're teaching us unconditional love."

He said it in such a serene tone, and it sounded so reasonable. But after I hung up, the trance broke. Sometimes kids need to die to teach their parents a lesson? What? I felt scrambled. I needed a reality check from my real family, not the one I had forged in the John Wayne Airport Hyatt Regency ballroom. So I called my dad.

As soon as I mentioned Chicken Soup for the Soul, he had a lot to say. Iconic brands of the 1990s happen to be his specialty. For many years he was worldwide managing director for Absolut Vodka at a leading ad agency, and he went on to teach branding at New York University. He pointed out that the cover of the original Chicken Soup book "ripped off" Campbell's Soup, to trigger "nourishing and comforting and warming" feelings. "That 'C'! That script!" When I told him Chicken Soup for the Soul now means pet food and streaming services and Redbox, he laughed. "This is like the dying-out company saying: How can we squeeze another twenty million dollars out of this brand?" he said. "Most companies are very careful. Pepsi doesn't get into this kind of stuff because they have a lot more to risk. These guys, they just want to keep using it as a springboard to some other business."

He started suggesting outrageous directions Chicken Soup could go in next: "The Chicken Soup pistol! It shoots noodles!" Then he confessed that he had only skimmed the original book, "just to see what the deal was." So I explained the Law of Attraction, and his tone changed.

"I suspect most people don't get that message," my dad said. "You're responsible for your own cancer? It's your fault?" He sounded stunned. A year earlier, he had radiation for prostate cancer. There was a pause.

"Some things are just bad luck!" he said finally, his voice rising. "You accidentally pick up a copy of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul,' and you get messed up for the rest of your life."

In his memoir, Canfield's son recalls telling his father something similar: "You know that this stuff doesn't actually help anyone, right?" He was 16 and had just attended one of his dad's seminars for the first time. "For twenty-five hundred dollars, you provide these people with a temporary escape from the pain of being human," he went on. "But once they leave this hotel, it's not like that. It's back to their bosses yelling at them, their wives nagging them, until they can't take it anymore and it's time for another seminar. I don't see how that's any different from being a drug dealer."

I'd already been feeling that pull, a deranged desire for more hugs and pep talks and grandiose plans. But I resisted the urge. This Chicken Soup for the Soul self-esteem comes with too much self-loathing. It proved to be a lucrative business model, preying on that need, that confidence mixed with fear. Today, though, Canfield's original idea seems like a distant memory, with so many spinoffs and products and unrelated enterprises piled on. Perhaps the only thing that has remained constant is the friction between brand and reality. Perhaps, as a meme stock, the company achieved its final form. Perhaps, for all this talk about success, Chicken Soup has manifested its own demise.

Amanda Chicago Lewis has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and Rolling Stone.

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A Book Found in a Cairo Market Launched a 30-Year Quest: Who Was the Writer?

For Iman Mersal, the slim novel was “life altering.” She narrates her journey in the footsteps of its largely forgotten author in “Traces of Enayat.”

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Iman Mersal poses for a portrait outdoors, on a snowy winter day. She’s wearing a red coat.

By Aida Alami

Reporting from Rabat, Morocco

Crouching over piles of books in a market stall in Cairo one day in the fall of 1993, Iman Mersal stumbled upon a slim volume with a gray cover and a catchy title: “Love and Silence.”

Mersal, who was then a graduate student, thought the author might be related to a novelist and prominent anticolonial figure, Latifa al-Zayyat. She bought the book for one Egyptian pound.

What Mersal found instead was an intimate, introspective novel, an essential but largely forgotten work by a female writer in early contemporary Egypt. The voice, Mersal later wrote, was “modern, strange, limpid and beyond categorization.”

The book moved her, she said, and set her on a nearly 30-year journey to learn what she could about the author, a young Egyptian woman called Enayat al-Zayyat who died by suicide in 1963 after overdosing on pills. All she left was a note by her bed for her son, Abbas, that read: “I do love you, it’s just that life is unbearable. Forgive me.” After her death, her writing fell into oblivion.

In “Traces of Enayat,” translated by Robin Moger and to be published on April 2 in the United States by Transit Books, Mersal revives the story of the late writer. The Arabic version, published in 2019, won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award two years later and was a regional success. A mix of literary genres, the book is a subtle and universal exploration of identity.

“A sense of longing for a place and a self that has left you comes through in the pages,” Adam Levy, the book’s U.S. editor, said.

The book feels like a biography, he said, but it is more ambitious, and more interesting, than that. “As you read,” he added, “you start to feel Iman’s presence in it subtly.”

Mersal, who is now 57 and one of the most consequential Egyptian authors of her generation, grew up in Mit Adlan, a village in the delta of the Nile, in northern Egypt. As a child, she loved language and songs, often shutting herself in her room to listen to music, plays and narrated movies on the radio.

She lost her mother at a young age, and wrote her first poem, a critique of Mother’s Day that started with the phrase “against motherhood,” when she was in fifth grade. She wrote it in anger, she said, and read it out loud during a celebration in the school courtyard.

“One of the toughest teachers cried,” said Mersal, who has two sons. “I call myself a writer since.”

Al-Zayyat came of age during a golden era for Egyptian literature, in the 1950s and 1960s, during Gamal Abdel Nasser ’s government. Many influential writers in that era were driven by the urge to transform society. Mersal, too, socialized with writers who wanted to change the world, and joined a feminist publication, “Bint al Ard,” in 1986. But she wasn’t sure what kind of intellectual she wanted to become.

“The literary scene was controlled by the old guard who believed in Arab nationalism or communism, who believed that literature can change the status quo,” she said. “I was thinking about figuring out my own voice. Expressing my relationship with my father, my relationship with Cairo, my city. It was about individuality.”

In 1992, she visited Baghdad to meet with women affected by the Gulf War in Iraq and the brutality of the regime in their own country. It was then that Mersal started questioning her purpose.

“It was transformative. I faced many questions,” said Mersal during an interview from her work studio in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives. “What does Arab nationalism mean, what does it mean to be a committed writer?”

New perspectives opened up when she discovered “Love and Silence,” another woman’s honest chronicle of suffering and self-discovery. The book, which came out four years after al-Zayyat’s death, tells the story of Najla, a young woman who is grieving the recent loss of her brother and figuring out her place in a fraught political context. The narrator’s unfiltered voice sketches Najla’s attempts at finding herself, failing brutally each time.

Though al-Zayyat’s book had its flaws, Mersal said, it was life-altering. Mersal had been facing depression and searching for meaning in her life, she said. “This book spoke to me in a way no other female writer spoke to me.”

Mersal moved to the United States in 1998 and later to Canada, where she has lived since as an academic, poet, translator and author. Al-Zayyat grew up in a very different world, among the high society of Cairo.

Over the years, Mersal took her time to carefully navigate al-Zayyat’s world. She includes this journey in her book, taking the reader to places few can access, such as a meeting with al-Zayyat’s childhood friend, the iconic Egyptian actress Nadia Lutfi.

Al-Zayyat grew up in a loving family and was particularly close to her father, but struggled with depression most of her life. She had a passion for drawing and painting but stopped studying before she turned 19 to marry a man from an affluent family. The marriage was agonizing, and soon ended in a bitter divorce.

In Mersal’s book, an entry from al-Zayyat’s journal dated 1962 captured her pain. “I don’t mean a thing to anybody. Lost, found, it’s all the same: Here is as good as gone. The world wouldn’t tremble either way. When I walk I leave no tracks, like I walk on water, and I am unseen, invisible.”

What led al-Zayyat to end her life is uncertain. A commercial film and a radio series were made based on her novel. Both disappointed Mersal and al-Zayyat’s niece. They felt that, among other issues, the productions had erased the substance of the novel and focused on elements of the plot.

During her last months, al-Zayyat lived in an apartment that her father built for her on the second floor of their villa in Dokki, then a wealthy residential suburb of Cairo. She wrote on a newly-acquired Optima typewriter, and was committed to getting her book published. At the same time, she was losing custody of her son in court.

After her mother received a call from the publishing house saying that the manuscript had been rejected, al-Zayyat chopped off her hair and locked herself in the apartment. According to Mersal, who spoke to the author’s sister and to her best friend, she was found dead the next day.

It seemed that being part of the upper class limited her possibilities, Mersal explained — as if society had disappointed her so much that death was the only form of protest that remained.

“The idea that a young woman would kill herself — a young woman with a son, a father and a best friend — and all because of a book, was genuinely tragic, but it was also seductive in its tragedy,” Mersal wrote in the book. “I pictured Enayat painstakingly acquiring the rudiments of good Arabic grammar and inflection, then carefully setting down everything she wanted to say in her novel, then refusing the suggestion that she should self-publish.”

Mersal had many questions that she attempted to answer over her long years of obsessive research, but her intent never was to write a biography or a history book, she said.

“Telling the story of searching for Enayat was my way of reading her life and not displaying her life,” she said. “My dream was to tell our story, my story, her story, this interaction between us. The past is not that glorious. It’s the collective and individual wounds of this past.”

When Mersal finished writing the book, she struggled with emptiness and sadness that echoed al-Zayyat’s.

“It felt like a friend died,” she said. “It was a weird feeling of mourning.”

Aida Alami is a Moroccan reporter who has been contributing to The Times since 2011. She is based in Rabat, Morocco, and Paris. More about Aida Alami

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

James McBride’s novel sold a million copies, and he isn’t sure how he feels about that, as he considers the critical and commercial success  of “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.”

How did gender become a scary word? Judith Butler, the theorist who got us talking about the subject , has answers.

You never know what’s going to go wrong in these graphic novels, where Circus tigers, giant spiders, shifting borders and motherhood all threaten to end life as we know it .

When the author Tommy Orange received an impassioned email from a teacher in the Bronx, he dropped everything to visit the students  who inspired it.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


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