PIE Paragraphs and TRAIN Structure for Essays



Sometimes when students SEE how essays work, they can write their own with confidence and competence. One thing that has worked for me is using colors, metaphors, and formulae.


Gather colored pencils or highlighters in different colors, enough for three colors per student, and try this. Three colors combos:  yellow, blue and green.  Or blue, red and purple.

Some of the students know that blue and  yellow make green and that blue and red make purple.

Using photocopied sample essay and the blue, yellow and green colors,  ask students to mark the thesis statement in green, topic sentences in blue, and supporting sentences in yellow to illustrate ways that the topic and supporting sentences blend to explain, explore or expand on the thesis. THEN, have them write their own essays, and BEFORE turning in the draft, to show in colors the parts of their own essays.  (I sometimes have partners work together and highlight the elements for their partners.)


Train engine

Another graphic image that has worked is the metaphor of the train.


TRAIN - 2  The engine is the introduction

CARGO CARSThe cargo cars as body paragraphs


and the caboose is the closing paragraph.


See link to PIE and TRAIN Structure for slides to illustrate this strategy.



P:  State your POSITION on the topic

I: Illustrate the position with examples from LITERATURE, from LESSONS learned in other courses, from LIFE that you’ve experienced or observed.  (Using transition words to connect illustrations to position statement.  (Provide students with chart of transition words. Could post the chart where students can see it whenever they’re writing in class.  OR point out the page of transitions in their textbook).

E:  Explain how the illustrations relate to the POSITION statement.

POSITION.  For example (illustration).This shows…(explanation).  Furthermore (another illustration).  This shows..(explanation).  Moreover (another illustration)  So you see..(explanation)  (See the P.I.E. link to a more expanded explanation)

See link to PIE and TRAIN Structure for slides to illustrate this strategy.

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9 thoughts on “PIE Paragraphs and TRAIN Structure for Essays

  1. I don’t mean to get off-topic but I’m having trouble loading this page correctly in IE7. The margins are all messed up and some things overlap each other. Just wanted to let you know since a lot of people use this browser.

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  3. Hello…
    The PIE strategy is interesting.
    I’d like to use it in teaching,
    but, anyway, do you know the origin or the founder of this strategy?? I need it for my research

    1. Rinia, I am pleased that the postings on my website are helpful to you. Unfortunately, I do not know who originated the PIE writing strategy.
      In the early years of my teaching, few high school teachers concerned themselves with who created a strategy. If it worked, we used it and shared it. Few handouts at professional conventions and seminars included even the teacher’s name who gave the presentation.

      So, although I’ve used the ideas for over twenty years, I have no idea where it started. When you conduct internet searches you’ll find PIE structure recommended on numerousn high school and college sites because this approach to planning an essay has proven helpful to so many student writers.

      Several college writing centers recommend this approach to paragraph structure, too.
      See Roger Williams University and these colleges.

      Wishing you well on your research,


  4. Over twenty years?
    That’s amazing!
    I like the ideas of this PIE strategy because it may function as a guideline for the students in the process of writing. You know, many teachers in my country emphasize more on the students’ writing result rather than the process of writing itself.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the information Anna.
    Actually, I just kind of afraid if the examiners later will ask about the origin of the strategy. I am very frustrated for it difficult to find journals and books that discuss and talk about this strategy. And when I search about PIE in google,thing that mostly appears is food.

    1. Rinia, For your examiners, just be honest and let them know where you found the P.I.E. concept and why you recommend including this way of teaching in the work you submit for their review. . You may also refer them to the National Writing Project, an professional organization, that encourages teachers to use the process approach to teaching writing, primarily because it’s the way most professional write.

      Few authors are skillful enough to write and publish first drafts that are viewed as effective communications. Most writers seek the opinion of readers they respect who give the writer feedback in comments, and recommendations. A number of writers read and revise on their own several work times before they ask for feedback. And, the majority of published writers have an editor who reads for content, organization, appropriate vocabulary for the intended audiences as well as for MUGS (MECHANICS, USAGE, GRAMMAR and SPELLING).

      So, when we educators do not allot time for students to think about what they want to write, make some notes,plot an outline, create a word web, write a draft, read, reflect, and revise, seek feedback from other readers, revise again, then edit and finally publish for real readers, we are not serving our students well. When we grade a first draft as though it has been through this process, we are suggesting to our students that they should be able to write a perfect paper in a single draft.

      Telling our students about the P.I.E. approach to drafting is just one of many strategies that help students organize and expand their thoughts in writing. I’m glad you recognize its value, too.

      I wish you well as you continue your research.

  5. Thanks. I have been using PIE for my adult learners in the college setting. It has been effective on academic and social levels because the students feel confident in writing using the model. My dissertation is on writing models and college writing centers. It has been a struggle finding the origin of many writing writing models. Perhaps that’s one gap in the literature.

  6. Hey everybody, who knows the book of PIE strategy? I want to buy that book to do my research about applying PIE strategy. If you know,please tell me.

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