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Essay Structure

adapted Keyhole Model & PEEL Method

Keyhole Model (adapted) & PEEL Method

The Keyhole Model for structuring essays isn’t new. Some attribute the original concept to Sheridan Baker (Hodges, 2012). If you search the Internet using the phrase “keyhole essay writing model” you will find various versions of this visual model. Although the original model mimics the shape of a keyhole, many teachers have adapted the diagram over time. One writing teacher refers to his adaptation as the Candy Model. He prefers using this comparison as most students are no longer familiar with skeleton keys and the archaic keyholes that match them. The Candy Model is simply made up of two triangles and a square. After looking at many versions of the Keyhole Model, I know I want my exemplar to be simple enough for students to draw and / or diagram themselves.  Of course, they also need to understand the basic structure of an essay and which parts are the most important. Furthermore, I also understand that diagrams like these are an effective method for mapping or outlining an essay before the writer begins writing a rough draft. In fact these diagrams reinforce the prewriting phase of the writing process and allow students to explore the essay topic more fully. At the same time, I want to continue to reinforce the PEEL Method for essay writing. My version of this model brings together the concepts I think are important in essay writing (structure) as well as the PEEL Method. My previous graphic design assignment (Module 4) is also connected to this example via colour and repetition of the word PEEL. An association like this should reinforce student learning.

 As a teacher and a librarian I rely upon visuals to support or reinforce instruction. However, before this module, I had no idea what made specific shape tools so effective.  According to Lohr, shapes are an effective way to present “related but distinct information as one unit” (p. 250). She also pointed out that squares and rectangles are often used to “contain information, facilitate comparison, focus attention, and show hierarchy” (p. 250). I used rectangles to contain information (PEEL Method) and focus attention on how to develop an argument and provide supporting details. Lohr also mentioned that common shapes like triangles and stars “provide direction, imply motion, organize and unify, make something look engaging and fun, and make connections” (p. 250). So I included the star shape and the capital letter T to engage student interest but also reinforce the importance of the thesis which is the controlling idea of the paper. Our essay writing tutorial rubric (for Grade 10 students) refers to the controlling idea of the paper. In junior high, students are more familiar with the concept of thesis rather than the concept of controlling idea. The yellow star and the letter T bring the two concepts together visually; the paring also links the student’s previous knowledge (thesis) with the new knowledge (controlling idea). Repeating the symbol in the introduction and conclusion also stresses its importance.

 After showing my initial version of the Keyhole Model to a couple of teachers and receiving feedback from them, I decided to align the words (Intro, Body and Conclusion) along the left margin and the paragraph symbols as well. I originally had the paragraph symbols centred under each word but that side of the page didn’t direct the viewer’s eyes very well. I also moved the yellow star-letter T shape that is connected to the concept of the controlling idea (refer to the right margin) to the middle of the page. The page seems more balanced or harmonious since this change was made.


Hodges, H. J. (2012, June 13). Gypsy scholar: Sheridan Baker’s “keyhole” structure for the entire essay, plus innovations [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.ca/2012/06/sheridan-bakers-keyhole-structure-for.html

Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance: Lessons in visual literacy (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pilcrow symbol graphic: Simple English Wikipedia (public domain).