Great essays require a certain format, structure, and approach — skills you need to be familiar with before you can teach essay writing to your student(s).
To get you up to speed, this guide will lay out everything you need to know. And, we’ll round things off with a series of fun, informative worksheets, to give your kids all the tools they need to write effective, well-constructed essays.
Why is essay writing important?
Essay writing is important for a number of reasons.
For one, every high school and college student needs to know how to write an essay. So getting into good essay habits at a young age is excellent preparation.
But essay writing also teaches kids how to structure their thoughts, how to persuade, and how to argue a point — all of which will come in useful later in life.
Lastly, essay writing can also be a really satisfying exercise for children! By writing an essay they get to show off all of their knowledge on a particular subject, so it’s a great activity to do at the end of a unit of study.
All this being said, essay writing doesn’t always come naturally to kids. Here’s why…
Why children sometimes struggle with essay writing — and how to overcome that
We all know how proficient kids are at writing a quick text or posting on social media. But long-form writing skills aren’t often required in their day-to-day lives.
In order to write a great essay, students need to:
- Master the use of sentences and paragraphs
- Be able to express their own opinions
- Understand how to structure an essay correctly.
Basically, they need to learn a completely new set of writing rules. But this needn’t feel overwhelming for students or teachers if tackled in the right way.
If you work on each element of essay writing individually, students develop the skills they need and won’t feel so daunted when faced with a long-form writing task.
How to teach essay writing: 7 tips and worksheets
If the way you currently teach essay writing isn’t working, or your student’s attention is wavering, these tips and worksheets should help you out…
How to teach essay writing: help kids with paragraphs and transitions
In order to write an effective essay, students need to know how to structure paragraphs. And each paragraph should focus on one main idea.
Students should also be familiar with transitions. Words and phrases like ‘firstly’, ‘however’, and ‘as a result’,will help students to link their paragraphs and create a cohesive argument.
Try this worksheet on transitions to help your students create a logical essay.
How to teach essay writing: introduce your class to a good essay structure
The more good essays students read, the more familiar they become with the standard structure: introduction, main body, and conclusion.
The main body of the essay should contain at least three different paragraphs, all developing the discussion or argument a little further.
You can help younger students to create the main body of an essay by using question prompts for each paragraph. Once they know the structure and grow in confidence, they’ll be able to replicate it all on their own.
Students can also practice writing introductions and conclusions for an existing piece of writing before tackling a whole essay.
How to teach essay writing: encourage kids to give opinions
Younger students might be able to relay facts, but they sometimes struggle to work out how they feel about a particular issue.
If they’re going to give their opinion in an essay, they first need to practice giving their opinion during class debates, small group discussions, or in short-form writing exercises.
Help your kids understand the difference between fact and opinion with this worksheet.
How to teach essay writing: teach them how to analyze a question
In order to answer an essay question properly, your kids need to understand it. Get them to analyze a variety of different essay questions, underlining the key points.
What are they being asked to do? Should they describe it? Discuss it? Or persuade?
This is a good jumping-off point for exploring useful words and phrases used to answer each different type of question.
Teach your students to support their arguments with this persuasive language worksheet.
How to teach essay writing: develop mind-mapping and planning skills
Once students understand how to break down a question, it’s time for them to create an outline of their essay.
You should give them lots of opportunities to practice mind maps and essay planning. They should write down everything they know about a topic, including their own opinions on it.
Students should then also get the chance to research the things that they don’t know or remember, adding them into the mix to create a complete picture.
Once all ideas are down on paper, it’s time to group them together depending on the essay question. For instance, ideas could be grouped into arguments for and arguments against a particular viewpoint.
These compare and contrast worksheets will help students to group together similarities and differences, and learn how to categorize their ideas.
How to teach essay writing: pick an inspiring topic
When you think your kids have all the tools they need to attempt an essay, be sure to pick a topic that sparks their imaginations.
Make sure it’s something they know a lot about. Or something they are sure to have a strong opinion on. That way ideas will flow easily and writing an essay on the topic will be an interesting experience.
These book review worksheets incorporate research, analysis, and writing, all on the topic of your students’ favorite book. Perfect!
How to teach essay writing: teach essay writing little and often
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. And a student will only get comfortable, confident, and capable at essay writing through good practice. So aim to incorporate essay writing (and the building blocks that support it) into your classes regularly.
Not only will this help students to develop their essay writing skills, but it will also make the prospect of essay writing less intimidating for those students who don’t find it particularly easy.
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