Writing essays can be daunting and a bit overwhelming for students of any age. That is why I started making Essay of the Week packets. They are bit size, only a section a day, then, by the end of the week, students are able to produce a strong essay. It also really allows students to take the time to make sure they have every part required for each paragraph.
I also added example transition phrases, citation ideas, hook ideas, etc. so that kids are constantly using different and appropriate essay phrases whether they remember them on their own or not.
These can go with any topic you would like. I usually give my middle school students (and my 5th graders when I taught lower el) an article to go with this discussing the pros and cons so that they already have an automatic source to cite from. You may choose to have them perform their own research.
This essay contains the space option of writing two reason paragraphs to support their thesis.
I generally do the first packet IN CLASS as mini-lessons each day to help the kids become familiar with it and to teach each of the parts that belong in each paragraph.
I tend to give this packet to my middle schoolers every two or three weeks to be practice strong writing. I love to see their growth from the beginning of the year on our end of the year persuasive writing district prompt.