Hamburger Paragraph Planning

One of the joys of teaching third grade is getting the kids ready for standardized testing (insert a hefty amount of sarcasm here!) ;)

We started delving into paragraphs the other day and I was super-inspired to spruce up something I've been using for years: The Hamburger Paragraph Plan!

I have always compared paragraphs to hamburgers in the past, but this year really went to town in making lots of graphic organizers (hamburger-shaped) to help kids streamline their thinking. I am blessed with a lot of lovely, creative writers, but on the whole, we really need to work on focusing our thinking :)

The structure of the Hamburger Paragraph Plan is:
  • top bun= introduction
  • three layers (mine are lettuce, burger and cheese)= three strong supports
  • bottom bun= conclusion
The prompt we started with actually came from our Morning Meeting Question that day: What is your favorite junk food? This was a great way to start, since they had already thought about it and shared it aloud with the class during Greetings and Question. For more Morning Meeting info, click HERE.

We began by working on the Hamburger Plan- one side was blank with labels and the other side had labels and lines for sentences. We started on the blank side with labels and planned it like so:

Sorry it's a bit small, but the basic idea is that their answer to the question is on the top bun and their three supports are boxed in each of the middle layers. I then had the kids add three bullet points of added descriptions using sensory images, similes, and comparisons to really make the support come alive for the reader.

I modeled along the whole time with my own piece about cheesecake.... which was a bad idea, since that's all I have been thinking about since! I should've chosen carrots ;)

We then flipped to the back to start working on changing their ideas into complete sentences. We talked about very simple introduction and conclusion sentences:

They had two choices for the introduction sentence (in green) and they only had one choice for their conclusion sentence (in red). I am never, ever this prescriptive, but like I said, this particular group needs focused writing, so until we do the Story Starter Lesson (after Thanksgiving), I am the Intro & Conclusion Police :)  It also freed up their brains to focus on their supports, which was important for this first go-around.

I didn't worry about spelling, just complete sentences and making sure we didn't have "broken record" writing- I had to explain records... I never feel old until I have to start explaining these things more and more each year!

When they had their intro and conclusion buns written and their burger layers into descriptive sentences (1-2 per layer), then publishing was the easiest thing in the world! Typically, I have them write in their Writer's Notebook, but for this example, we used the simple publishing page and it was perfect! We thought of creative titles, added our name underneath, talked about indenting, and then just copied the sentences from our hamburger plan over to the published page.... voila!

Isn't this just lovely? The format is all there and she includes some great description on her own in complete sentences with a simple introduction and conclusion- the basics are down and now we can get into the work of making these more complex. If you're like me, having a solid base makes it so much easier to then teach the complexities, especially with paragraphing.

I was particularly excited to see that even my stugglers had the concept down- granted, they weren't using similes and advanced vocabulary yet, but they had an intro, three supporting sentences, and a conclusion- can't ask for more than that after the intro lesson!

We will continue to work on these for the next few weeks and I had them glue a "notebook helper" in their Writer's Notebooks so they can refer back to it later in the year when the tests get closer, when they need to write a paragraph as a written response to text, or whenever they need their memory jogged.

This activity also aligns to the following 3rd Grade Common Core State Writing Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1a Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1b Provide reasons that support the opinion.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.1d Provide a concluding statement or section.

If you're interested in this packet, I have it listed in my TpT Store. Included are all of the above-mentioned forms along with anchor charts, rubrics for student and teacher, and all instructions:
I hope this is a help to you and your students and that they become better writers through planning! Have a wonderful weekend :)


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    What a cute pack! I LOVE the hamburger idea!

    Standardized testing is the pits! We have to do it in 3rd grade in Australia too, ours was earlier in the year - our writing was persuasive (exposition) very tricky!

    Teaching Maths with Meaning

    1. Thanks, Alison! I can't believe your tests were so early :( Our's are a few months before school and I thought that was bad! Hope you have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by :)


  2. Your packet looks wonderful!!! I have used the hamburger idea before and my kids always enjoyed it!!

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  3. I also use the hamburger idea when teaching paragraphs...but your packet is so adorable...I'm thinking of going over to grab them right now. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're so sweet, Kathy, thanks! I know your kids will love it as much as mine did- they were loving coloring in their own mini-notebook helpers and having conversations about their favorite toppings :) Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!