The “Sandwich” Model
aka Holding the Good Stuff Together
This guide is designed to help any students (through high school!) who need help with structure in their essay writing, and it employs the simple concept of how a sandwich is pieced together as the model. This commonly used approach comes in many shapes and sizes, and you may have encountered it before. The idea is simple enough:
Just like a sandwich, we must layer all that good stuff together in an orderly way,
so we can handle it and enjoy it.
HOWEVER, the beauty of this particular approach is how it works from the MACRO to the MICRO. I’ve helped students conceptualize the structure (and assembly) of an essay in these three (3) ways:
• Thinking broadly about how their paragraphs fit together in the ESSAY
- Intro paragraph (Bread)
- Body paragraph (Tasty good stuff w/sauce & sizzle)
- Concluding Paragraph (Bread)
• Thinking about the structure of EACH INDIVIDUAL PARAGRAPH
- Topic sentence (Bread)
- Body Content (Tasty good stuff w/sauce & sizzle)
- Concluding Sentence (Bread)
• Thinking about incorporating SPECIFIC SUPPORT WITHIN PARAGRAPHS
- INTRODUCE quote/support (Bread)
- INSERT the element (Tasty good stuff w/sauce & sizzle)
- Provide an INSIGHT on it (Bread)
NOTE: I’ve found this “THREE I” approach particularly beneficial for students over the years. It helps them avoid just “plopping” in quotes void of context or language flow, AND it helps them avoid plagiarism when working with researched content. Think about it, a “Quote Sandwich” employing the “Three I” approach is comprised of 1) a student lead in; 2) a quotation or piece of evidence; and 3) the student’s commentary. That’s 2/3 their work and 1/3 someone else’s, BUT the other’s work is quoted & cited. JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE THEIR FACES LIGHT UP WHEN YOU CAN GIVE THEM THIS TOOL!
HOW YOU CAN USE IT:
• Present an overview first, via handouts, so students can conceptualize the sandwich-stacking imagery
• Help students practice by mimicking the examples provided (especially the “Snippet” exercise)
• HIGHLY ENCOURAGE (OR DEMAND) THAT THEY WORK BACKWARDS!!
What does this mean? It means recognizing that students must think from the MACRO to the MICRO, but they must write in the reverse. It stands to reason, of course, they must have ideas to write about, so they develop a macro view, homing in on well-considered ideas supported with sound content and evidence. However, for students to begin to effectively communicate their perspective, they must dissect and develop the aforementioned content from the micro level, the “devil in the details” level. They must ask themselves, Which point should I make first? Which quotation is best suited for that part of my paper? And this requires that they use the writing process in order to build their work from the ground up (or the inside out). It means encouraging students to focus on detailed content first before sitting down to type, to actually make choices about the relevance and quality of the content they choose to include in their essays. It also means encouraging them to recognize the value of planning and ordering their content by EMPLOYING AN OUTLINE. Such an outline, they will see, could closely mimic a “sandwich” with intros and conclusions and content stacked within.
I tell students that all their hard work and thinking gets done in the outline, but, after that, their drafting should be a relative breeze. Each bullet-pointed piece of content from their outline will become at least three sentences if they employ the Sandwich Model and the “Three I” approach. That is, for every piece of content they’ve pulled from another source, they are wrapping it in two-thirds of their own written ideas and commentary. Two-thirds (or more) of “The Sandwich” is always theirs. So, when it comes to transitioning from the outline to the draft, the “stuff” of their essays emerges quite easily after the hard work of the outline, and the only thing left is to tweak the language and make it sing.
By making well-considered choices about WHAT content to include in their writing, and by using an outline (and the “Sandwich” model) to make similar choices about HOW to structure their communication, they will learn to build their writing from the inside out, from the MICRO to the MACRO.
In the digital age where it’s so easy to simply sit and begin typing that first sentence, it takes some convincing before students understand the value of the writing process, of planning and structuring ideas before drafting. The “Sandwich” model helps foster this approach for students and, once they try it, they typically embrace it because they recognize and appreciate its effectiveness.
The “Sandwich” model provides them with an easy-to-digest tool to help their writing take shape and, in the end, to create something appetizing for their audience.