Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Elaborate It

Kelly Allen


Students add personal anecdotes to expository responses in order to elaborate on a central idea.


The student focuses on a central idea or topic (for example, excluding loosely related, extraneous, or repetitious information).

The student uses an effective organizational pattern and substantial support to achieve a sense of completeness or wholeness (for example, considering audience, choosing effective words, sequencing events; using specific details to clarify meaning).

The student develops anecdotes or examples to support and elaborate upon reasons.


-Reading sample (for beginning attention grabber) file attachment pg.1
- Overhead of student writing sample (file attachment pg.2)
-Overhead of practice paragraphs to use for whole group instruction
-Elaborate It worksheet (one for each student) file attachment pg.3
-Eight sheets of tablet paper


1. Make overhead copies of the student writing sample and the practice paragraphs. (file attachment)
2. Make copies of the student worksheet (one for each student).
3. Gather enough sheets of tablet paper and markers for each group.
4. Prepare a short introduction and a paragraph containing a major detail with extensions for the students to copy onto their tablet paper. (See step # 5)


1. Begin the lesson by asking the students to listen to the two student samples of paragraphs. Explain that both students were responding to the same topic which was about their favorite place to go. First, read the paragraph that did not have an anecdote or personal mini -story. Then read the paragraph that did have the personal mini-story. Ask the students which paragraph they liked the best. Then ask them to share why they thought paragraph #1 or paragraph # 2 was better. Explain that what the student did in paragraph #2 was elaborate on (or tell more about) the favorite place to go. Point out that the student did this by sharing a personal experience that said that this place really was awesome. Then tell the students that this is called elaborating and it makes writing more lively and interesting through explicit details.

2. Now show the students the overhead of a fourth grader's writing sample. After reading the essay aloud to your students as they follow along, ask them questions about the way the essay is organized. This is a perfect opportunity to review the writing skills that the students should already be familiar with such as the main idea of the essay, the 3 major details that were addressed, the minor details that were given with each major detail, and finally the elaboration or anecdote in each middle paragraph.

3. You can have the students reveal what prompt the student was addressing when he wrote the essay. This will establish the main idea. Then, ask the students to examine the second paragraph. After pointing out the major detail (or focus) of that entire paragraph, ask them if they recognize where the writer began to elaborate using a mini-story or anecdote. Why was this effective? How did it support or prove the major detail? Read the other two middle paragraphs, following the same line of questioning. It is important that the students recognize where the writer has elaborated so they can model this same strategy later in the lesson. You can also point out transition words that have been used to begin the elaborations. List these on the board for later reference. (I remember a time..., Like once when..., In one instance..., Just imagine..., The best..., One time..., My favorite...)

4. On the overhead, write a paragraph with your students using a prompt of your choice. (Favorite snack, favorite sport, ....) Make sure you model the anecdote at the end of the paragraph. Allow the students to give their input. Ask questions to check for understanding of the organization for the paragraph.

5. Now divide the students into groups of 3 or 4. Write on the board a short introduction to an expository essay, along with the second paragraph that gives the first major detail with a few sentences that provide extensions. (The only thing your middle paragraph should be missing is an anecdote or mini-story.) Instruct the groups that they are to work together to come up with an interesting elaboration that fits with the paragraph. On tablet paper, they are to copy the given information from the board and complete the paragraph. Encourage them to discuss various examples before they begin writing. Afterwards, have the groups share their paragraphs and discuss if each group accomplished the task of elaborating. Allow students time to provide feedback on the different examples. If there were any students that did not accomplish the task successfully, then correct them.

6. At this point, the students should be ready for individual practice. Pass out the student worksheet and go over directions. Make sure to point out the transitions that were on the board for starting an elaboration or mini-story.


Students can be assessed through observation of class discussion, group participation, and finally by their individual practice worksheets. The students should display a basic understanding of focusing on a central idea and providing support through elaborating by using anecdotes. Students should work cooperatively in developing their stories.


This activity can be extended by having the students respond to an expository prompt of the teacher's choice. They can be instructed to include anecdotes or mini-stories in each middle paragraph. The product should be a 5 paragraph essay.
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