Essay Writing – I taught a class of my own where all students were given a hamburger graphic organizer and taught to fill in all the parts of the burger if they wanted to create a “good essay”. The kids were bored as they dutifully wrote sentences to fit into the graphic organizer. Their essays were weak, but they followed a formula that was supposed to help them do better on the “test.”
When I first started teaching the personal essay in my classroom, I insisted that all of my fifth graders have three body paragraphs to support their theses that they wrote in the opening paragraph because they would be writing five paragraph essays (which I now realize that it is a man-made construct). After a couple of years of teaching the personal essay, I became better at helping students gather a variety of information (such as anecdotes, quotes, observations, statistics) to help them prove their thesis statements. On design day, students chose thought sheets for each of their “body parts”. They would discard evidence that did not support their thesis. Then they put all their thoughts into one paragraph. As a result, many students’ paragraphs went on for a page or two because each paragraph contained a lot of information that proved their thesis (which was one of the three arguments for their thesis).
As a public school teacher in New York City, I participated in calendar days led by Teachers College’s reading and writing project. In November 2004, I participated in a session where NYC teachers prepared personal and literary essays for students. While there were five personal essays and four literary essays, it was the first time I’d ever heard anyone talk about essays in a way that made them seem—dare I say—fun to write. I learned as much as I could from that professional learning day and taught my students to embrace essay writing without the use of a hamburger diagram. All of my students gathered thoughts to prove a point, which helped them prepare essays on topics that were meaningful to them as people. They may still be formulated, but my students were invested in the writing.
How To Write An Essay Use This Simple Step
Over the years I have come to realize that essay writing is writing to think (Hoagland, 1976). Michel de Montaigne was a philosopher who wrote about the countryside during the French Revolution. He his attempts to write
It can be difficult to realize that an essay is more than something that contains a thesis statement that you are trying to prove to someone. If we cover the original meaning of the essay in classrooms, we can teach children to develop ideas on paper that reflect their thoughts on a topic.
Katherine Bomer offers a practical definition of the essay in her book The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays Students Want to Write to People Who Want to Read Them (Heinemann, 2016):
Comparative Essay Writing By Absolute Essays
It’s a big step for a writer to make a point from topic-centered paragraphs and concluding sentences to complex and deep provocative ideas.
If I could give my 2020 professional growth to my early 2000s self, I would encourage students to ditch the five-paragraph structure. Just because two pieces of evidence are related doesn’t mean they have to be on the same point! Here’s a chart I’ll share from my early career to help kids figure out the reasons why essay writers use paragraphs.
Of course, like anything else, I told my early career to make sure kids know the rules before they break them. That said, once a child has grasped paragraph structure, I would encourage them to be inventive in how they used paragraphs in their essay writing.
Ace Your Essay Writing: Personal Recount, Reflective & Expository Essays
I have realized that teachers need to delve into different types of essay writing. First, we need to find essays that go beyond the formal five-paragraph essays we’ve been writing and teaching for years. Here are two places to look out for:
I recommend that you delve into essay writing with the above titles before teaching your students the essay writing unit so that you can imagine what the end product of the thought journey looks like. Write down your favorite lines as you read. Notice the features you admire. Read through different lenses. Then talk to your colleagues who also want to change the way they teach essays so you can work on the essays you’re learning together.
Once you’re done delving into several essays, you can dive in and write one yourself. Or, if you’re studying with other teachers who want to go beyond the five-paragraph essay, consider writing something with your colleagues. This gives you a feel for how essay writers need to think (and write to explore) in terms of structure. In addition, it will give you a way to think about how to use collaborative writing as a starting point for working with students to write for thinking. After you’ve written a few paragraphs shared with your colleagues, you can write your own essay that you can use as an advisory text for your students.
Tools For Essay Writing To Share With Your Students
ADVICE. When you first write an essay that reflects Bomer’s definition of an essay (above), don’t think about standards, learning processes, or lessons you can teach. Choose a topic that you want to explore in your article that has meaning and value. Then write about it, just like the above essay writers did in their essays. It’s okay to try this type of work and feel like you’ve failed the first few times. It is called a human being. After years of learning how to write an essay formally, it takes time to relearn how to write differently. I promise you, as someone who has written a few informal essays, it is possible to retrain yourself to write an essay that is meaningful and provocative, but doesn’t necessarily win the argument. I found myself still using transition phrases, but no longer worrying about each paragraph starting with a topic sentence, having three detail sentences, and ending with a conclusion sentence.
There will be times in our students’ lives (such as standardized tests) when they are required to write formulaic essays that ask them to make a claim and prove it in a few well-structured paragraphs. But if we’re going to prepare students for these kinds of tasks, then it’s important to teach them how to do it
, or try to gain new ideas and understanding from their writings. We need to go beyond the five-paragraph formula to keep children from writing formally. When we move beyond the five-paragraph essay, we free our students to “explore, explain, and express themselves” (Bomer, 2016, 22). If we can teach students to reflect on an idea over several pages to gain new understanding, then we are teaching them a valuable life skill.
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What thoughts have you had about moving beyond the five-paragraph essay? What are you going to read to help you achieve a five paragraph essay with your students? (Next to read on my list is
John Warner.) What will you do to take the next step in changing the way your essay is perceived by your peers? Please share your thoughts below.
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshops. I have been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Before that, I was a fourth and fifth grade teacher in New York and Rhode Island. I am the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day by Day (Stenhouse, 2010). I live in central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my spare time I enjoy swimming, pilates, cooking, baking, ice cream and reading novels. View all posts by Stacey Shubitz Provide information on what you need help with, along with a budget and timeline. Questions are asked anonymously and can be made 100% private.
Essay Writing Tips For High School Students
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