Expository essays simply provide information for the reader. We will be teaching all grade levels the "stoplight" paragraph so that it will be less confusing to students, who sometimes learn a different formula every year for building a good paragraph (remember the "hamburger" or the "hand"?).

I have added a blank template(see link below) we will be using in class to help students. If they are assigned an expository paragraph to write, but have forgot the sheet at school, they may print it out and submit to me.

Please also reinforce the following at home so that students learn this formula well.

3rd grade will be responsible for writing an 8-sentence paragraph.
4th grade = 10-sentence paragraph
5th grade = 11-sentence paragraph


Green = means "go." The topic sentence is colored green because it shows what the writer is going to prove or explain.

Yellow = means "slow down." The sentences that support the topic are colored yellow to remind writers to slow down and provide reasons, details, or facts that prove or explain the topic sentence.

Red = means "stop." These sentences contain examples, evidence, and elaboration to support the key, star idea (yellow above).
They are colored red to remind the writer to stop, explain and add evidence to prove what they are writing.

Red = means "stop." The second red sentence requires that the writer add another example, elaboration or piece of evidence that will further prove the writer's point made in yellow.

Yellow = means "slow down again." This sentence will provide another piece of support for the topic sentence. The writer will give another reason, detail or fact that relates to the green topic sentence.

Red = stop and elaborate with examples, evidence, explanations, or elaborations for the second yellow fact or opinion.

Red = stop and elaborate with another example, explanations, or elaboration for the yellow fact or opinion.

Green = means "go back." The conclusion reminds students to go back and remind the reader of the topic.

The following example was written by a third-grade student last year, and perfectly illustrates a "stoplight" paragraph. The assignment was to describe your favorite pet.
(Notice how she adds sensory detail to make the paragraph more interesting!)

GREEN: SQUEAK!!!! If you just heard that noise, it was my fluffy guinea pig, Gabby.

Yellow: Gabby always makes that annoying, high-pitched sound when she wants food or attention, but mostly when she wants food.

Red: Gabby squeaks so loudly that I heard her from outside of the house once. I had forgotten to give her food, of course.

Red: Another time, she kicked her food out of her cage just to see me sweep it up. It’s like people’s pain makes her happy.

Yellow: Gabby is like the fifth person in our family.

Red: She is always there for me to hug when I am sad. I feel like she’s talking to me when she looks up at me with her big brown eyes.

Red: A few nights ago, my parents kept waking up. They were up until 4 a.m. until they realized that it was Gabby wanting some attention, just like a baby.

Green: Sorry I can’t write anymore but I’ve got to run. I hear Gabby squeaking for more food.