literary essay

Essay Writing, Bootcamp Style

Several years ago, I would drive past my local park and see a group of people that met weekly for an all-body Bootcamp. Inspired by their dedication to fitness, I tried it out for myself. 

On the first day, I was uncoordinated and moved much slower than the other members. When the coach said, “step left” I would step right. When he said, 3 sets of 14 arm curls, I would do 10. I wanted to quit after the first day because I felt I could never be as coordinated and fast as them. However, the common goal of being healthier, exercising with peers and a coach, outweighed my self-doubt and I continued with my attendance. As I reflect on this experience further, I also believe it was the communal energy that kept me motivated.

Essay Bootcamp

This communal feeling was also apparent in a 4th-grade classroom where students were writing literary essays. Students had just finished their claims and reasons and were ready to draft. The next session was called “Essay Bootcamp.”

I asked students to bring drafting paper, a pen, their writer’s notebooks, and an annotated mentor text to the meeting area. I began the minilesson with my experience with Bootcamp.

They seemed nervous when I mentioned they would be experiencing an essay Bootcamp today. “In an essay Bootcamp, ” I explained, “You will draft an entire essay from start to finish.” At first, they seemed worried, but I shared they shouldn’t worry because we would be doing it together on the rug. Suddenly, their worried eyes became smiling eyes.

At first, I asked if students had their thesis statement and to refer to the anchor chart, “How to Write a Literary Essay.” The class had their thumbs up to suggest they had their thesis statements ready, and we began drafting. I said to them, “Let’s start by writing the title, author, and thesis statement.” I reminded them that the mentor text would be helpful if they needed an example. 

Once students had their titles, author, and thesis statements written, we began our first body paragraph. As students scrawled on their papers, I voiced over, “Don’t worry too much about spelling. If you feel it’s an error, cross off and keep writing.”

Independent Writing

Once students had finished drafting their first body paragraph, I had them return to their seats to write independently. This allowed me to work with a small group.

After meeting with the small group, I voiced over to the class, right now, you should have written three body paragraphs. Students took stock of where they were with their essays and I noticed most students were not too far back from the third body paragraph. It was important for me to share they should not worry if they have not.


In closing, or what Bootcamp calls cool down, students rolled their shoulders and relaxed their hands. I asked students to mark one thing they would like to revise as we move forward.

One thought on “Essay Writing, Bootcamp Style

  1. As soon as I read the title to the blog post I was already planning my next 5th grade writing lesson based on the “bootcamp style!” I love the communal feeling of “we are all in this together,” “I am your coach,” and “I am here to support.” What an awesome way to regroup and motivate. Thank you!


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