An academic essay must have the correct structure. It must begin with an introduction, it must have two or more body paragraphs, and it must have a conclusion. In this class, you must write essays with five paragraphs, unless you receive permission from the teacher to write differently.
The introduction must begin with one or more introduction techniques, such as anecdotes, quotes, questions, interesting facts, or disagreement with someone. Since these techniques may not connect smoothly to the thesis statement, you may have to write one or more sentences as a kind of "bridge" that will lead to your thesis statement. While introductions in this class will be one paragraph, introductions may be two or three paragraphs long in longer essays.
Body paragraphs must contain a topic sentence, usually the first sentence of the paragraph. The topic sentence will roughly summarize (explain the main idea of) the whole paragraph. Often body paragraphs have one or two major supporting details; each of these major details contains an example or explanation which supports the topic sentence. Each major supporting detail should begin with a major supporting detail sentence, followed by the minor supporting details: several (at least four or five, possibly more) sentences which provide extremely specific descriptions and/or explanations.
Body paragraphs should also be ordered in meaningful ways; many students will simply write paragraphs in the order they think of them. However, ordering can greatly improve the flow of an essay. Perhaps the body paragraphs could be ordered by importance, or by time, or by strength. Sometimes you will change the order of paragraphs because there is a way to smoothly link the end of one paragraph to the beginning of another paragraph. There is no one "correct" method of ordering, but there must be some meaning and/or purpose in the order you put your paragraphs. Be ready to explain to your teacher exactly why you ordered your paragraphs the way you did.
Finally, your conclusion must have structure as well. It should begin with a "recap" (kind of a summary) of the essay's main points, without repeating the exact same words used before. If there is a way to add to the meaning of your thesis statement, now is a good time to do so. The conclusion should end with one or more techniques, such as challenging your reader, expanding on your thesis, or creating a "bookend" which relates your conclusion to your introduction (e.g., finish an anecdote which began in the introduction).
You must always be aware of structure as you create your paragraphs. Students tend to write in a manner called freewriting, which means to write without planning or structure. This is similar to the way you might speak to a friend about something. Academic writing must be more formal, and must follow the structure outlined above.