How to Teach Students to Write Main Body Paragraphs Using the T.E.X.A.S. Formula

This is an introduction to how to teach your students the skill of writing main body paragraphs using the T.E.X.A.S. formula. The T.E.X.A.S. Chain Paragraph Massacre!

It is important that students realise that this is a means to divide paragraph writing into five distinct sections, not sentences. When first starting the process, the teacher may decide to limit the paragraph to five sentences. As students develop their skills, it is important to have discussions around the appropriate length for the different sections. For example, a lengthy example may simply amount to recalling and describing. It is the analysis section which requires the higher order thinking processes of inference, deduction and complex reasoning. When feeding back to students, it is important to set targets which are specific to the sections of the chain. E.g. Your topic sentence should begin with a cohesive device and contain the key words from the question or The S section should use the language of appraisal. You may also wish to use the analogy that the chain needs the linking cohesive devices to be effective.


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    Have the students come up with a topic sentence. The ‘T’ section promotes the use of the term ‘topic sentence’ which is something which many educators are asking students to identify and apply to their own writing practices. When teaching students, provide students with models where they are able to highlight key words and cohesive devices which are salient features of a topic sentence. Therefore, it is imperative that the argument, task or essay question has been unpacked to an extent that the key words have been highlighted. Students should be able to pick out a topic sentence in a card sort activity and justify their conviction that it is the topic sentence before they go on to create their own topic sentences. Students should also make the connection that it has a strong connection to the ‘S’ section. Those of you who are familiar with the ‘hamburger’ paragraph will recall the bun analogy. To extend students in their writing and allow them to take more independent ownership of their writing, encourage students to produce a list of synonyms for the key words which they can interchange to avoid repetition.
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    Have the students expand on the topic sentence. The ‘E’ section is for expansion as students are expanding on their assertion in the topic sentence rather than explaining and justifying themselves.
  3. Image titled Teach Students to Write Main Body Paragraphs Using the T.E.X.A.S. Formula Step 3
    Ask for an example. The ‘X’ section is the example section and it is important that students briefly contextualise an example, building up to it, before inserting the detail. There may be more than one example to include. In a literary essay, this may mean more than one quotation. Students should be aware that choosing the most appropriate example is in itself a skill as a poor example will lead to poor analysis.
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    Ask for analysis next. The 'A' analysis section gives the student the opportunity to extend and refine knowledge, using higher order skills of inference, comparison and abstraction. Use M.E.S. to break this down for students. First explain what your example means (deductive reasoning), then explain its effect (inference) and its significance (making connections to the reader, to the context, to society, etc).
  5. Image titled Teach Students to Write Main Body Paragraphs Using the T.E.X.A.S. Formula Step 5
    Have the students close with a summary. The ‘S’ section has different functions depending on the level of complex reasoning required. It can mean simply summarising your conclusion. For those seeking a deeper understanding, it can also mean significance and students are required to apply their knowledge meaningfully to offer unique insights into their subject matter. Alternatively, those people who use P.E.E.L. will know that the L is the linking sentence, similarly the ‘S’ can stand for setting up for the next paragraph.


  • Begin by showing students a model or exemplar. Show students the five sections of the T.E.X.A.S. paragraph and explain that you will build up to paragraph writing.
  • Start at word level - key words, language of appraisal and cohesive devices are all salient features of paragraph writing which need to be explicitly taught. Use a Thesaurus to look for synonyms for key essay words e.g. importance, effectively etc.
  • Paragraph writing - Use card sort activities where students structure the five sections into sequential order. Give students model paragraphs, ask students to highlight the different sections in different colours. Also, ask students to use sentence starters to complete paragraphs. Give students model essays for different grades and ask the students to assess and appraise them.
  • Next tackle sentence structure - Show students the five different sections and ask them to match example sentences to the correct sections. Give students paragraphs with sentences blocked out so that they can fill in the missing sentences.


  • Use the sentence starters with students who will only be successful with scaffolding but don't use these in isolation. The other strategies will build confidence and independent application rather than dependence.

Things You'll Need

  • your own example paragraphs (you need to experience the process first-hand)
  • the TEXAS chain scaffolding sheets
  • card sort activities
  • a word bank for your topic
  • a word bank for your type of transactional text
  • example texts which model this main body paragraph formula
  • a breakdown of the salient features of your transactional text (structure and language features)

Article Info

Categories: Teacher Resources | Education and Communications