My 7th grade students were having a hard time organizing their expository essays, even after giving them a graphic organizer and teaching them how to fill it in. So, I took the organizer, and with my 4x4 (paragraphsXsentences) rule, created this outline.
I would recommend that you tell them the "HELP" section (or the section where they put their examples-H:history E:entertainment L:literature P:personal experience) can be any where from 1-3 sentences in that paragraph.
I also walked them through each section, the first day they saw this, and gave them extra details about each sentence. I told them that if worst comes to worst, this is how their essay should be organized at its basic form.