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Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

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Essay writing is an essential skill for every student. Whether writing a particular academic essay (such as persuasive, narrative, descriptive, or expository) or a timed exam essay, the key to getting good at writing is to write. Creating opportunities for our students to engage in extended writing activities will go a long way to helping them improve their skills as scribes.

But, putting the hours in alone will not be enough to attain the highest levels in essay writing. Practice must be meaningful. Once students have a broad overview of how to structure the various types of essays, they are ready to narrow in on the minor details that will enable them to fine-tune their work as a lean vehicle of their thoughts and ideas.

Visual Writing

In this article, we will drill down to some aspects that will assist students in taking their essay writing skills up a notch. Many ideas and activities can be integrated into broader lesson plans based on essay writing. Often, though, they will work effectively in isolation – just as athletes isolate physical movements to drill that are relevant to their sport. When these movements become second nature, they can be repeated naturally in the context of the game or in our case, the writing of the essay.


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Planning an essay

essay writing | how to prepare for an essay | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

The Boys Scouts’ motto is famously ‘Be Prepared’. It’s a solid motto that can be applied to most aspects of life; essay writing is no different. Given the purpose of an essay is generally to present a logical and reasoned argument, investing time in organising arguments, ideas, and structure would seem to be time well spent.

Given that essays can take a wide range of forms and that we all have our own individual approaches to writing, it stands to reason that there will be no single best approach to the planning stage of essay writing. That said, there are several helpful hints and techniques we can share with our students to help them wrestle their ideas into a writable form. Let’s take a look at a few of the best of these:


Whether students are tackling an assignment that you have set for them in class or responding to an essay prompt in an exam situation, they should get into the habit of analyzing the nature of the task. To do this, they should unravel the question’s meaning or prompt. Students can practice this in class by responding to various essay titles, questions, and prompts, thereby gaining valuable experience breaking these down.

Have students work in groups to underline and dissect the keywords and phrases and discuss what exactly is being asked of them in the task. Are they being asked to discuss, describe, persuade, or explain? Understanding the exact nature of the task is crucial before going any further in the planning process, never mind the writing process .


Once students have understood what the essay task asks them, they should consider what they know about the topic and, often, how they feel about it. When teaching essay writing, we so often emphasize that it is about expressing our opinions on things, but for our younger students what they think about something isn’t always obvious, even to themselves.

Brainstorming and mind-mapping what they know about a topic offers them an opportunity to uncover not just what they already know about a topic, but also gives them a chance to reveal to themselves what they think about the topic. This will help guide them in structuring their research and, later, the essay they will write . When writing an essay in an exam context, this may be the only ‘research’ the student can undertake before the writing, so practicing this will be even more important.


The previous step above should reveal to students the general direction their research will take. With the ubiquitousness of the internet, gone are the days of students relying on a single well-thumbed encyclopaedia from the school library as their sole authoritative source in their essay. If anything, the real problem for our students today is narrowing down their sources to a manageable number. Students should use the information from the previous step to help here. At this stage, it is important that they:

●      Ensure the research material is directly relevant to the essay task

●      Record in detail the sources of the information that they will use in their essay

●      Engage with the material personally by asking questions and challenging their own biases

●      Identify the key points that will be made in their essay

●      Group ideas, counterarguments, and opinions together

●      Identify the overarching argument they will make in their own essay.

Once these stages have been completed the student is ready to organise their points into a logical order.


There are a number of ways for students to organize their points in preparation for writing. They can use graphic organizers , post-it notes, or any number of available writing apps. The important thing for them to consider here is that their points should follow a logical progression. This progression of their argument will be expressed in the form of body paragraphs that will inform the structure of their finished essay.

The number of paragraphs contained in an essay will depend on a number of factors such as word limits, time limits, the complexity of the question etc. Regardless of the essay’s length, students should ensure their essay follows the Rule of Three in that every essay they write contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Generally speaking, essay paragraphs will focus on one main idea that is usually expressed in a topic sentence that is followed by a series of supporting sentences that bolster that main idea. The first and final sentences are of the most significance here with the first sentence of a paragraph making the point to the reader and the final sentence of the paragraph making the overall relevance to the essay’s argument crystal clear. 

Though students will most likely be familiar with the broad generic structure of essays, it is worth investing time to ensure they have a clear conception of how each part of the essay works, that is, of the exact nature of the task it performs. Let’s review:

Common Essay Structure

Introduction: Provides the reader with context for the essay. It states the broad argument that the essay will make and informs the reader of the writer’s general perspective and approach to the question.

Body Paragraphs: These are the ‘meat’ of the essay and lay out the argument stated in the introduction point by point with supporting evidence.

Conclusion: Usually, the conclusion will restate the central argument while summarising the essay’s main supporting reasons before linking everything back to the original question.


essay writing | 1 How to write paragraphs | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

●      Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea

●      Paragraphs should follow a logical sequence; students should group similar ideas together to avoid incoherence

●      Paragraphs should be denoted consistently; students should choose either to indent or skip a line

●      Transition words and phrases such as alternatively , consequently , in contrast should be used to give flow and provide a bridge between paragraphs.


essay writing | essay editing tips | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

Students shouldn’t expect their essays to emerge from the writing process perfectly formed. Except in exam situations and the like, thorough editing is an essential aspect in the writing process. 

Often, students struggle with this aspect of the process the most. After spending hours of effort on planning, research, and writing the first draft, students can be reluctant to go back over the same terrain they have so recently travelled. It is important at this point to give them some helpful guidelines to help them to know what to look out for. The following tips will provide just such help: 

One Piece at a Time: There is a lot to look out for in the editing process and often students overlook aspects as they try to juggle too many balls during the process. One effective strategy to combat this is for students to perform a number of rounds of editing with each focusing on a different aspect. For example, the first round could focus on content, the second round on looking out for word repetition (use a thesaurus to help here), with the third attending to spelling and grammar.

Sum It Up: When reviewing the paragraphs they have written, a good starting point is for students to read each paragraph and attempt to sum up its main point in a single line. If this is not possible, their readers will most likely have difficulty following their train of thought too and the paragraph needs to be overhauled.

Let It Breathe: When possible, encourage students to allow some time for their essay to ‘breathe’ before returning to it for editing purposes. This may require some skilful time management on the part of the student, for example, a student rush-writing the night before the deadline does not lend itself to effective editing. Fresh eyes are one of the sharpest tools in the writer’s toolbox.

Read It Aloud: This time-tested editing method is a great way for students to identify mistakes and typos in their work. We tend to read things more slowly when reading aloud giving us the time to spot errors. Also, when we read silently our minds can often fill in the gaps or gloss over the mistakes that will become apparent when we read out loud.

Phone a Friend: Peer editing is another great way to identify errors that our brains may miss when reading our own work. Encourage students to partner up for a little ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’.

Use Tech Tools: We need to ensure our students have the mental tools to edit their own work and for this they will need a good grasp of English grammar and punctuation. However, there are also a wealth of tech tools such as spellcheck and grammar checks that can offer a great once-over option to catch anything students may have missed in earlier editing rounds.

essay writing | Perfect essay writing for students | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

Putting the Jewels on Display: While some struggle to edit, others struggle to let go. There comes a point when it is time for students to release their work to the reader. They must learn to relinquish control after the creation is complete. This will be much easier to achieve if the student feels that they have done everything in their control to ensure their essay is representative of the best of their abilities and if they have followed the advice here, they should be confident they have done so.


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  • How to structure an essay: Templates and tips

How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

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Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Part Content

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.


In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .


Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

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  • College Essay Format & Structure
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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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EL Education Curriculum

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  • ELA G4:M1:U2:L9

Writing a Literary Essay: Analyzing a Model

In this lesson, daily learning targets, ongoing assessment.

  • Technology and Multimedia

Supporting English Language Learners

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  • ELA Grade 4
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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • RL.4.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • RI.4.10: By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • W.4.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • W.4.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • W.4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
  • I can use the Painted Essay structure to analyze a model. ( W.4.2, W.4.4, W.4.5 )
  • Painted Essay(r) template
AgendaTeaching Notes

A. Engaging the Reader: Model Literary Essay (10 minutes)

B. Reviewing Learning Target (5 minutes)

A. Analyzing a Model: The Painted Essay (30 minutes)

A. Research Reading Share (15 minutes)

A. Accountable Research Reading. Select a prompt and respond in the front of your independent reading journal.

B. Choose an informative writing prompt to complete in your Unit 2 Homework.

C. For ELLs: Complete the Language Dive II Practice worksheet in your Unit 2 Homework.

). Consider how familiar students are with this structure and reallocate class time spent introducing it as necessary. ). Throughout the school year, students are provided with checklists for their writing, which outline the key criteria that the CCSS require of the writing type. These checklists are closely aligned with the teacher rubrics used to grade student assessments. An empty column is provided on each student checklist for students to add criteria for the specific characteristics required by the writing prompt, and time, directions, and examples for this process are built into the relevant lessons.

). The checklist is introduced at the end of Work Time A and discussed throughout the rest of the unit as students learn about each characteristic. The column "Characteristics of My Literary Essay" is designed to help students understand this module's specific content focus. . .

  • Prepare the materials required for the Painted Essay (see Materials).
  • Preview the Painting an Essay lesson plan to familiarize yourself with what will be required of students (see supporting materials).
  • Post: Learning target and Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart.

Tech and Multimedia

  • Work Time A: Rather than using colored pencils on the displayed model literary essay, consider highlighting or using colored text on a word-processing document.

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards and 4.I.B.6 and 4.II.A.1

Important points in the lesson itself

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs with opportunities to unpack an example of the work they are expected to complete during the remainder of the unit. They are also empowered to use a color-coding system that will help them understand essay structure using visual prompts.
  • ELLs may find it challenging to absorb an abundance of information and terminology about essay structure. Remind students that this structure is an expanded version of the paragraph structure they completed in prior lessons. Think aloud each part while analyzing the model essay in order to clarify the purpose of each component of the structure. Reassure students that even if they do not understand everything today, they will have plenty of opportunities to work with the concepts throughout the unit and the year.
  • In Work Time A, ELLs are invited to participate in an optional Language Dive. This conversation guides them through expanding the meaning of the focus statement in the model literary essay. It also provides students with further practice using the language structure from the model literary essay focus statement. Students may draw on this sentence when writing their informative essays later in the unit. A consistent Language Dive routine is critical in helping all students learn how to decipher compelling sentences and write their own. In addition, Language Dive conversations hasten overall English language development for ELLs. Preview the Language Dive Guide and consider how to invite conversation among students to address the questions and goals suggested under each sentence strip chunk (see supporting materials). Select from the questions and goals provided to best meet your students' needs. Consider providing students with a Language Dive log inside a folder to track Language Dive sentences and structures and collate Language Dive note-catchers.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • During the Language Dive, challenge students to generate questions about the sentence before asking the prepared questions. Example: "What questions can we ask about this sentence? Let's see if we can answer them together." (What does it mean to find inspiration?)

For heavier support:

  • Create a puzzle of the model literary essay using index cards. Paste each paragraph on a different index card. Use colored index cards according to the established Painted Essay colors. Challenge students to put the paragraph together in the correct order without looking at their papers.
  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In Work Time A, students analyze a model essay in preparation to write their own essay. Help students engage with the model essay in multiple ways. Color-code the model on display with the same colors that the students use during the Painted Essay exercise.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression (MMAE): In the basic structure of this lesson, students get multiple representation cues with the color-coding provided by the Painted EssayO template. However, some students may find covering the entire essay in one lesson overwhelming. Consider chunking the explicit instruction for each part of the essay into multiple lessons to provide time for students to comprehend new information.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): This lesson continues work that students will use to write an informational essay on their expert group's poet. Build engagement for the informational essay by telling students that they get to become experts about a specific poet. Then they will be able to teach others all about the poet and demonstrate their knowledge.

Key:  Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T); Vocabulary Used in Writing (W)

  • The Painted Essay, structure, analyze (L)
  • Model literary essay (one per student and one to display)
  • Informative Essay Prompt: What Inspires Poets? (from Lesson 6, one per student and one to display)
  • Vocabulary logs (from Unit 1, Lesson 3; one per student)
  • Annotated model literary essay (for teacher reference)
  • Painted Essay(r) template (one per student)
  • Paintbrushes (one per student)
  • Read, yellow, blue, and green watercolor paint (one set per pair)
  • Cups of water (one per pair)
  • Painting an Essay lesson plan (for teacher reference)
  • Red, yellow, blue, and green colored pencils (one set; for teacher modeling)
  • Paper (blank; one per student)
  • Informative Writing Checklist (one per student and one to display)
  • Language Dive Guide: Model Literary Essay (optional; for ELLs; for teacher reference)
  • Language Dive Note-catcher: Model Literary Essay (optional; for ELLs; one per student and one to display)
  • Language Dive Sentence strip chunks: Model Literary Essay (one to display)
  • Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart (begun in Unit 1, Lesson 2)
  • Independent Reading: Sample Plan ( see the Tools page ; for teacher reference)

Materials from Previous Lessons

New materials.

Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

and chorally read it aloud with you.

and explain that this is something they may have seen in previous grades, and they will learn more about it in this lesson.

. . Remind students that they have seen this word before and invite them to review the word on the Academic Word Wall and in their vocabulary logs.

, and , each one on a different shade of the paint chip. Place them on the wall and discuss the shades of meaning in relation to the writing process. , connect it to architecture. Tell students that architects build different structures based on their purpose (e.g., skyscraper, garage, swimming pool, etc.) Similarly, authors will structure their writing differently depending on the type of text they are writing. (MMR)
Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

as necessary, and . and the to model on the displayed model literary essay. .

. Tell students that this checklist is something they will use a lot in their English Language Arts work. Ensure students understand that they will be using this checklist each time they write an informative piece because these are the things every good piece of informative writing should contain.

to lead students through an optional Language Dive. Refer to the guide for how to integrate the and (see supporting materials). 
ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

Remind them of: I behave with integrity. This means I am honest and do the right thing, even when it's difficult, because it is the right thing to do. to guide students through a research reading review, or use your own routine.
HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs

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How to Teach Essay Writing

A guide on how to teach essay writing skills from the ground up

Jagseer S Sidhu / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

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As ESL students become more fluent, it's time to focus on how to use that fluency in specific tasks, such as making a presentation or writing an essay. The advanced topics you choose should depend upon what your students have planned for the future. In classes with mixed objectives, there's a need for balance to make sure that students who don't necessarily need the task at hand still profit from the lesson.

This is never truer than when teaching essay writing skills. Classes that are preparing for academic English objectives require the skills while " business English ," or English for specific purposes classes, might find the entire exercise a waste of their time. Chances are, you have a mixed class, so it is recommended to tie essay writing skills to other important skills — such as using equivalencies, the proper use of linking language, and sequencing in writing. Students not interested in essay writing skills will gain valuable experience in developing these skills regardless of the task.

Build Toward Essay Writing Skills

Start by modeling clear writing at the sentence level. The best way to approach essay writing skills is to start at the sentence level. Once students have learned to compose simple, compound, and complex sentences, they will have the tools necessary to write longer documents such as essays, business reports , formal emails, and so on. All students will find this help invaluable.

Focus on Equivalencies

I find the best place to start is with equivalencies. Before moving on, make sure students understand sentence types by writing a simple, compound, and complex sentence on the board.

Simple sentence: Mr. Smith visited Washington three years ago.

Compound sentence: Anna advised him against the idea, but he decided to go nonetheless.

Complex sentence: Since he was in Washington, he took the time to visit the Smithsonian.

Build up students' knowledge of equivalencies by beginning with FANBOYS ( coordinating conjunctions ), moving on to subordinating conjunctions, and finishing with other equivalencies, such as preposition and conjunctive adverbs.

Focus on Linking Language

Next, students will need to link their language, creating organization through the use of linking language, including sequencing. It helps to write out processes at this point. Ask students to think of some process, then use sequencing language to connect the dots. It's a good idea to ask students to use both numberings in a sequence of steps and linking through time words.

Writing Essay Practice

Now that students understand how to combine sentences into larger structures, it's time to move on to writing essays. Provide a simple essay to students and ask them to identify various structures and written objectives:

  • Underline linking language
  • Find examples of FANBOYS, subordinating conjunctions , conjunctive adverbs, etc.
  • What is the main idea of the essay?
  • How does the essay seem to be organized?
  • Essays generally contain an introduction, body, and conclusion. Can you identify each?

I like to help students by first explaining that an essay is like a hamburger. It's certainly a crude analogy, but students seem to get the idea of the intro and conclusion being like the buns, while the content is the good stuff.

Essay Writing Lesson Plans

There are a number of lesson plans and resources on this site that help with the many steps involved in developing the necessary writing skills. To focus on combining simple sentences into more compound structures, use a ​simple-to-compound sentence worksheet. Once students are comfortable at the sentence level, proceed from brainstorming through outlining to final essay production.

Challenges With Teaching Essay Writing

As previously stated, the main issue with essay writing is that it is not really necessary for every student. Another issue is that traditional five-paragraph essays are certainly a little old school. However, I still feel that understanding the structure of your basic hamburger essay will serve students well when putting together future written work.

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Essay Map

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Related resources.

Expository writing is an increasingly important skill for elementary, middle, and high school students to master. This interactive graphic organizer helps students develop an outline that includes an introductory statement, main ideas they want to discuss or describe, supporting details, and a conclusion that summarizes the main ideas. The tool offers multiple ways to navigate information including a graphic in the upper right-hand corner that allows students to move around the map without having to work in a linear fashion. The finished map can be saved, e-mailed, or printed.

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The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.

This Strategy Guide describes the processes involved in composing and producing audio files that are published online as podcasts.

This strategy guide explains the writing process and offers practical methods for applying it in your classroom to help students become proficient writers.

This strategy guide clarifies the difference between persuasion and argumentation, stressing the connection between close reading of text to gather evidence and formation of a strong argumentative claim about text.

Students will identify how Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of nonviolent conflict-resolution is reinterpreted in modern texts. Homework is differentiated to prompt discussion on how nonviolence is portrayed through characterization and conflict. Students will be formally assessed on a thesis essay that addresses the Six Kingian Principles of Nonviolence.

Students develop their reading, writing, research, and technology skills using graphic novels. As a final activity, students create their own graphic novels using comic software.

Students are encouraged to understand a book that the teacher reads aloud to create a new ending for it using the writing process.

While drafting a literary analysis essay (or another type of argument) of their own, students work in pairs to investigate advice for writing conclusions and to analyze conclusions of sample essays. They then draft two conclusions for their essay, select one, and reflect on what they have learned through the process.

Students analyze rhetorical strategies in online editorials, building knowledge of strategies and awareness of local and national issues. This lesson teaches students connections between subject, writer, and audience and how rhetorical strategies are used in everyday writing.

It's not easy surviving fourth grade (or third or fifth)! In this lesson, students brainstorm survival tips for future fourth graders and incorporate those tips into an essay.

Students explore the nature and structure of expository texts that focus on cause and effect and apply what they learned using graphic organizers and writing paragraphs to outline cause-and-effect relationships.

Students prepare an already published scholarly article for presentation, with an emphasis on identification of the author's thesis and argument structure.

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5 Paragraph Essay Structure: Lesson Plans and Examples

5 Paragraph Essay Structure: Lesson Plans and Examples

Subject: English

Age range: 14-16

Resource type: Lesson (complete)

Claire Vorster

Last updated

31 August 2020

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essay structure lesson plan

How do I write a good 5 Paragraph Essay? How does my thesis statement relate to the body of my essay? What about the conclusion? Here are practical answers; an antidote to anxiety in the classroom. Immediately, you can use these lesson plans and activities that contain an element of fun. Coupled with fit-to-purpose resources, your students will build confidence and skills as they learn to -

• Create a robust Thesis Statement that sets them up for success. • Write Body Paragraphs using proven Point, Evidence, Analysis structure. • Edit ideas so that they have time for analysis. • Practice planning using a workable structure. • Stay motivated, right to the end.

Please contact Claire Vorster for free resources, or with other questions.

Resources included in this pack

Confidence building activities Mini and comprehensive writing / planning activities Examples of Simple to Advanced Thesis Statements Examples of Simple to Advanced Body Paragraphs Sample templates to build essay structure

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ESL Essay Writing: 7 Important Tips

“Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end.”

This is true for a good essay, too.

An essay needs a coherent structure to successfully articulate its arguments. Strong preparation and planning is crucial to providing that structure.

Of course, essay writing can be challenging for ESL students. They must order their thoughts and construct their arguments—all in their second language.

So, here are seven ESL essay writing tips that will allow your students to weave together a coherent and persuasive essay, plus teacher resources for writing activities, prompts and lessons!

1. Build the Essay Around a Central Question

2. use the traditional 5-paragraph essay structure, 3. plan the essay carefully before writing, 4. encourage research and rewriting, 5. practice utilizing repetition, 6. aim to write a “full circle” essay, 7. edit the essay to the end, esl essay writing resources.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Encourage your students to build all their writing around one central question.

That central question is the engine of the writing—it should drive everything!

If a word or sentence is not assisting that forward motion toward the explication of that question and its possible answers, then it needs to be reworded, rephrased or just plain cut out and discarded.

Lean writing is merciless. Focusing on a central question throughout the prewriting, writing and rewriting stages helps develop the critical faculties required to discern what to keep and what to throw away.

Providing a clear structure for the student to approach essay writing can do a lot to build their confidence. The 5-paragraph essay, or “hamburger” essay, provides that clear structure for ESL writers.

Generally, this structure employs five separate paragraphs for the entire essay. Each paragraph serves a specific purpose, melding together to form a coherent whole:

  • Paragraph 1: The introductory paragraph. This includes the thesis statement, orientating the reader to the purpose of the essay.
  • Paragraphs 2 to 4: The body paragraphs. These make individual points that are further backed up by various forms of evidence.
  • Paragraph 5:  The conclusion paragraph. This provides a summation of the arguments and a final statement of the thesis.

While students do not need to rigidly follow this format forever, the simple structure outlined above can serve as excellent training wheels for your writers.

Using the 5-paragraph structure as outlined above makes planning clear cut.

Once they have their theses and are planning their paragraphs, share with the students the ridiculously useful acronym P.E.E. This stands for Point, Explanation and Evidence.

Each body paragraph should make a point or argument in favor of the central thesis, followed by an explanation of this point and relevant evidence to back it up.

Students can make note of all their points, explanations and evidence before they start writing them in essay form. This helps take away some of the pressure ESL writers feel when faced with a blank page.

Extol the necessity for students to constantly refer to their planning. The mind-mapping techniques popularized by Tony Buzan can be useful at the planning stage and make for easy reference points to ensure focus is maintained throughout the essay.

Having a visual reference such as this can help ensure that your student-writers see each piece of the whole as well as that elusive “bigger picture,” so it becomes a case of seeing the forest and the trees!

Just as planning is crucial, so too is research.

Often ideas or connections do not occur until the writing process has begun. This is a good thing! Essay writing is a creative act, so students can have more ideas along the way and work them in as they go.

The key is to always be able to back up these ideas. Students who have done their research on their subject will be much more confident and articulate in expressing their arguments in their writing.

One way you can help students with context and research is to show relevant video content via FluentU . This language learning program uses authentic videos made by and for native speakers to help students learn English.

You can watch videos as a class or assign them directly to students for individual viewing. Videos come equipped with interactive bilingual subtitles and other learning tools such as multimedia flashcards and personalized quizzes so you can see how each student is doing.

No matter how your students do their research, the important thing is that they explore and understand their topic area before beginning the big task of writing their essay.

Even with thorough planning and research, writing oneself into a linguistic cul-de-sac is a common error. Especially with higher-level students, unforeseen currents can pull the student-writer off course.

Sometimes abandoning such a sentence helps. Going back to the drawing board and rewriting it is often best.

Students can be creative with their sentence structures   when expressing simpler ideas and arguments. However, when it comes to more complex concepts, help them learn to use shorter sentences to break their arguments into smaller, more digestible chunks.

Essay writing falls firmly in the camp of non-fiction. However, that doesn’t mean that essay writers can’t use some of the techniques more traditionally associated with fiction, poetry and drama .

One technique that’s particularly useful in essay writing is repetition. Just as poetry relies heavily on rhythm, so too does argument. Repetition can provide that sense of rhythm.

This is because written language has its origins in oral language. Think of the great orators and demagogues and their use of repetition. Speechwriters, too, are well aware of the power of repetition.

The writing principle of the “rule of 3” states that ideas expressed in these terms are more convincing and memorable. This is true of both spoken and written words and the ideas they express. Teach your students to use this method in their essay writing.

The very structure of the 5-paragraph essay lends itself to planning for this repetition, in fact. Each idea that is explored in a body paragraph should be outlined first in the introductory paragraph.

Then, the single body paragraph devoted to the idea will explore it at greater length, supported by evidence. And the third rap of the hammer occurs in the summation of the concluding paragraph, driving the point securely and convincingly home.

As mentioned at the start of this post, every good essay has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Each point made, explained and supported by evidence is a step toward what the writing teacher Roy Peter Clark calls “closing the circle of meaning.”

In planning for the conclusion of the essay, the students should take the opportunity to reaffirm their position. By referring to the points outlined in the introduction and driving them home one last time, the student-writer is bringing the essay to a satisfying full circle.

This may be accomplished by employing various strategies: an apt quotation, referring to future consequences or attempting to inspire and mobilize the reader.

Ending with a succinct quotation has the double benefit of lending some authoritative weight to the argument while also allowing the student to select a well-written, distilled expression of their central thesis. This can make for a strong ending, particularly for ESL students.

Often the essay thesis will suggest its own ending. If the essay is structured around a problem, it’s frequently appropriate to end the essay by offering solutions to the problem and outlining potential consequences if those solutions are not followed.

In the more polemical type of essay, the student may end with a call to arms, a plea for action on the part of the reader.

The strategy chosen by the student will depend largely on what fits the central thesis of their essay best.

For the ESL student, the final edit is especially important.

It offers a final chance to check form and meaning. For all writers, this process can be daunting, but more so for language students.

Often, ESL students will use the same words over and over again due to a limited vocabulary. Encourage your students to employ a thesaurus in the final draft before submission. This will freshen up their work, making it more readable, and will also increase their active vocabulary in the long run!

Another useful strategy at this stage is to encourage students to read their work aloud before handing it in.

This can be good pronunciation practice , but it also provides an opportunity to listen for grammatical errors. Further, it helps students hear where punctuation is required in the text, helping the overall rhythm and readability of the writing.

To really help your students become master essay writers, you’ll want to provide them with plenty of opportunities to test and flex their skills.

Writing prompts and exercises are a good place to start:

Descriptive writing activities encourage students to get creative and use their five senses, literary devices and diverse vocabulary. Read on for eight descriptive writing…

Giving good ESL writing prompts is important because inspiring prompts inspire students to write more and writing more is how they improve. Read this post to learn 50…

You’ll likely also want to teach them more about the mechanics of writing :

Are you looking for ESL writing skills to share with your ESL students? In this guide, you’ll find different ESL writing techniques, such as helping students understand…

Introducing ESL journal writing to your students is a great way to get them practicing their English skills. Here are nine essential tips to make this activity creative,…

Essays are a great way not only for students to learn how the language works, but also to learn about themselves.

Formulating thoughts and arguments about various subjects is good exercise for not only the students’ linguistic faculties, but also for understanding who they are and how they see the world.

Related posts:

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