Friday, November 22, 2013

Fighting Essay Drool

Some children are drawn to writing. They clamber for pens, drool over lined paper, and beg to have words spelled for them, so they can write them down in neat little rows. These children are compelled to write letters in their pudding, form words in their soup, and compose sonnets at the mere hint of an assignment.

And then there are...the others.

You know which ones I'm talking about. The ones that will talk your ear off, but when it comes to picking up a pen, their eyes widen until you see yourself reflected in the terrorized depths of their pupils. These children drool over lined paper, too, but for a different reason: they just don't know what to write.

We need a plan. A battle plan. A plan that will combat:


It is important to explain the process. Prepare yourself to do this many times. Like every essay. No really.

This is the process we use at our house:


1) Make a bubble picture with one central idea and three supporting ideas. It should look like this picture, but each subtopic should have at least three points (green boxes).

2) Write the thesis statement.

Tell the main idea and then mention the supporting ideas in the same order as the body paragraphs.

Here is an example of a thesis statement: ‘Minecraft is awesome because one can build his own world, fight off creepers, and change his own skin.’

3) Outline the paper

This step forms the skeleton of the paper. It is a very important step. Here is a link to the worksheet we use to assist in setting it up. It is a Google doc that you are free to print it out as many times as necessary.

Go ahead and write the topic sentences for the body paragraphs. The supporting examples and explanations can be left in note form.

4) Write the body paragraphs

This is the actual writing of the paper, but it's no big deal now as it's all outlined and the most important sentences are already written.

5) Write the introduction

The first line should be a hook, such as a clever statement or an anecdote. Consider using a little story or excerpt from the text. Maybe just a quote, something to draw the reader in. Then lead the reader to the essay. Tell why that statement or anecdote matters. Prepare the reader for the essay. The thesis statement is the last line of the introduction

6) Write the conclusion

The conclusion wraps everything up. If you have anything else to say about the topic, put it here, but be careful—if it's really important, then it needs to be in the main part of the paper. Restate the thesis, but use different words or a different sentence structure than when you wrote it the first time. Consider a clever ending that reminds the reader of the beginning, for example, another anecdote or quote.

7) Type the paper.

Please. Just do it.

8) Let the paper rest. It's tired.

As we write, we become so involved with our papers that we to miss mistakes (seewhatIdidthere?). By letting the paper rest, you can look back at your words with a fresh perspective, often catching mistakes before the teacher (or mom) does.

9) Edit.

Fix errors in spelling and sentence structure. Consider having someone else read your paper. An outside perspective can go a long way.

10) Read through your piece one last time.

Just in case.

11) Print or e-mail to your teacher (or mom).

Double check that e-mail addy first.


So that's the plan, Stan. This is what I use to help my non-writers learn to write essays. What do you use?

Just in case you missed it, here is the link to that all important blank outline form. 

Extra Links:

Here is an example of a great 5-paragraph essay
Here's another one

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