7 Tips to Teach Essay Writing to Students

Writing is essential in any teaching process. Conveying thoughts into words might be difficult, but it is one of the most necessary abilities. Longer written forms like essays are especially important, hence they can help the student in defending his opinions. To be able to do that correctly can simplify the life of the students. But how to teach essay writing to your students?

It is a well-known fact that we learn through mimicry. We should utilize this in our teaching process.

1.    Start with an example

Before any writing occurs, we need to provide our students with examples of similar works. They will get to know how an essay looks like, and what a range of topics it can cover. Show them works from various fields. Give them time to read, and ask them to write about their feelings connected to the writing.

Discuss their observations. Find out what they like and what they disliked about those works. Pose questions that will enrich their observation: “Why do you think this is a paragraph? What made the writer decide on dividing it in that way?” The answers may vary, but they will lead onto another part of the learning process – the construction.

2.    Introduction to construction

The students can already see that the work is divided into paragraphs, and they will find out why. Each writing consists of three parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The provided examples show those three fundamental segments, and the students can label them themselves.

You should show your students the role of each of those segments. Starting with the introduction, and finishing with the conclusion, you can pick examples from your favorite essays, and show the students, why you chose those. If they have a basic understanding of the rules of construction, you can move to the next step.

3.    Construction of Introduction

Each essay starts with an introduction, so if you want to teach essay writing effectively, you have to be able to explain the importance of introduction. It needs to grab the attention of the reader, tell them what this work will be about, and what kind of problem it will attempt to solve. This part of the work should invite the potential reader to the next segments – the body, and then, finally, the conclusion.

Introductions usually start with a broad topic, and through the next couple of sentences focus on a certain aspect of that topic. This leads the reader to the thesis statement that each introduction is equipped with. The thesis statement introduces what the essay will be about, and the reasoning behind it.

4.    The main part — the Body

After showing what a great introduction can do for the whole work, we can move onto the body. It is the biggest part of any essay, and it has various paragraphs for various reasons. This is the space where the students put all their data in, all their evidence to support their claim made with the thesis statement.

Each of those mentioned paragraphs will have a different function. They start with a topic sentence that sets the mood for the whole segment. Then the student should enforce the topic sentence with evidence, supporting sentences, and data he has gathered. The final sentence of each paragraph should conclude and reinforce the topic sentence. It should also link to the next paragraph.

5.    The wrap-up — about Conclusions

After a careful analysis of the previous two parts of the essay, there is space for one more. The whole work is completed by a summary of the presented arguments. The last paragraph of each essay is dedicated to the conclusion.

The students should be able to notice that a good conclusion consists of a repetition of the thesis statement, a summary of the paragraphs from the body. The last sentence of the conclusion is usually devoted to proving that the problem presented in the thesis statement has been solved.

This should be enough for your students to get a firm grasp on the theory before writing an essay. You should be able to provide them with a clear outline of what goes into each segment of the work based on the explanation of each of the components. The students will be able to produce their outlines.

6.    The writing process

After helping the students with the structure, you also need to mention the writing process itself. The students might think that they will be able to complete the work in one evening, and as it might be true, the work put in will often result in a bad essay.

Good writing takes time, and showing the students the benefits of a writing plan should illustrate that. Turning the ideas in the heads of the students into essays is a complicated process, but with the help of a writing plan, it takes the anxiety away and helps organize those thoughts.

As the students already know what the components of each essay segment are, they will be able to plan out their process. They can estimate how much time it will take for them to research the topic, brainstorm ideas, and then finally write the essay. After completing the work there is one last stage before they can hand it in.

7.    Editing is essential

The first draft is never perfect. The student might think that after writing the essay his work is done, but we need to make him aware that editing is also important. It enables us to refine our thought process, and make it more reader-friendly.

If there are unclear sentences it makes the work much more difficult to understand where the student was going with his thesis statement and argumentation.

As Dr. Seuss has put it “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

After all these steps are completed, the student can submit their completed essay to us. We have shown them the world of essay writing, illustrated the construction, and gave them some tips for finishing their work. Those seven tips should provide you with enough material for even the most difficult students.

How a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum Ruined Teaching

I sat in a meeting recently where an administrator reiterated the importance of having a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.” He shared this quote:

It’s one of those things teachers have heard a thousand times, and we all just nod our heads and say to ourselves that of course schools should know what students ought to learn and kids growing up in Minnesota should know some of the same, big, basic things as kids in Georgia. It’s uncontroversial to say that kids will learn more when they’re given the time and opportunity to do so.

But a question that isn’t asked is how our desire to provide students with a guaranteed and viable curriculum affects teachers, and whether or not we should care.

First, let’s define some terms. Kathleen Dempsey at McREL writes:

A “guaranteed’ curriculum is often defined as a mechanism through which all students have an equal opportunity (time and access) to learn rigorous content. This requires a school-wide (or district-wide) agreement and common understanding of the essential content that all students need to know, understand, and be able to do.

So far, so good. But the devil is in the implementation. Dempsey continues:

The word “all’ needs emphasis; a guaranteed curriculum promotes equity, giving all children equal opportunity to learn essential content, and to provide this opportunity, curricular materials and instructional approaches must be grounded in research, implemented with fidelity, and must include vertical as well as horizontal alignment.

Ah, there’s that damn word, fidelity. As a teacher, fidelity means my district leaders trust a program more than they trust me, and it means I should suppress whatever creative instincts I might have and just open the program they’ve purchased and teach the way it says to.

Dempsey adds:

However, schools (through teachers) implement the curriculum, and, if implementation varies significantly from teacher to teacher, then student outcomes will also likely vary significantly from classroom to classroom.

Translation: If we could just get all teachers to teach the same stuff in exactly the same ways, then all kids would learn the same things at the same level. And if you believe that, well, there’s this bridge I know of…

Finally, Dempsey warns us about the dangers of teachers having choices:

These days, teachers have access to a variety of curriculum resources, such as open educational resources, playlists, digital textbooks, and teacher-developed curriculum. Having access to options is a good thing, but having many choices does not ensure all choices are well aligned to the school’s GVC.

Left unsaid: We probably shouldn’t allow teachers to decide what to use because they might choose unaligned resources. The logical solution then is for district leaders to choose so every teacher uses the same stuff, which allows the district to claim they have a guaranteed curriculum.

None of this sounds great from the perspective of a teacher. We’re going to be told what to teach. Because we can’t be trusted, we’re going to be told what to use to teach those things. Dempsey, no dummy, anticipates teachers’ objections:

Does this mean that a GVC is a scripted, rigid curriculum? No! Does this mean that students and teachers are confined to a lockstep process of teaching and learning? Absolutely not! Teachers must have the flexibility to meet student needs through different methods of content delivery, helping students dive deeper into their passions.

Which is a load of bull.

In practice, GVC all too often does mean a scripted, rigid curriculum. In fact, guaranteeing a curriculum all but demands a scripted, rigid curriculum. If your primary goal is for all students to have the opportunity to learn the same things, then you’re going to control to the greatest extent possible how instruction is delivered. You’re going to choose the curriculum teachers are to use and you’re going to demand they teach it with fidelity. You are going to confine your teachers to a lockstep process of teaching. And you most certainly will not encourage flexibility because as soon as teachers start deviating from your chosen curriculum, you open the door to the very thing you were trying to avoid in the first place, different teachers doing different things. The idea that teachers who work in a district that stresses a GVC are going to “help students dive deeper into their passions” is ludicrous unless those passions happen to align with the guaranteed curriculum.

Should We Care?

We know that students learn more by having guaranteed and viable curriculums in their schools, at least theoretically. But what do we lose? We pretend, as we so often do in education, that there are no trade-offs. We should at least ask if what we gain is worth more than what we lose. And what we lose is teachers’ motivation for the job, which is no small thing.

Make no mistake, guaranteed and viable curriculums have led to the standardization of classrooms. That is, in fact, their aim. While in a perfect world, our guarantees would be limited and teachers would retain autonomy around the delivery of the content, in the real world, school districts, in their desire for guaranteed curriculums, have stripped away teacher autonomy. They’ve taken teacher creativity out of the classroom, and by doing so, they’ve destroyed teachers’ motivation.

No teacher signed up to be a worker drone. When the curriculum tells them, “Teach this stuff,” and their employers tell them, “Teach it just like this,” then it’s small wonder lots and lots of teachers show up to school with declining enthusiasm for the work.

Once upon a time, teachers were more restauranteurs than delivery drivers. At the very least, they were chefs. Classrooms, like pizza parlors, were different, not just in how the content was delivered, but sometimes in the content itself. Teachers would invest more time, energy, and passion into topics they found interesting. I still remember a fair amount about the Alaskan dogsled race, the Itidarod, because I had a fifth-grade teacher who created a multidisciplinary unit on it. I doubt much of it was aligned to the standards.

Guaranteed and viable curriculums ruined that. Common Core amplified the effect because now we’ve got thousands of teachers across the country teaching the same exact stuff from a handful of uninspiring programs. The sheer number of standards guarantees that teachers will never have time to go off script and indulge their passions or follow their students down a bird walk, or six.

School leaders took it a step further when they demanded fidelity to the standards-aligned programs their boards adopted in their quest to offer a guaranteed curriculum. They didn’t want to leave their districts’ reputations in the hands of teachers! Better to trust the so-called research-based programs. At least then, when things fell apart, they could blame some faceless publishing company, pick a new program by a different faceless publishing company, explain away their error by uttering some tripe like, “When we know better, we do better,” make new promises, and start the cycle over again.

In the meantime, teachers, no longer trusted to decide what or how to teach, stripped of their autonomy and bereft of motivation, keep walking out the door. Some of them stay away for good. Others return week after week, serving up uninspired instruction that they have no say in.

A guaranteed and viable curriculum guarantees that students will have a better chance of passing a standards-aligned test, but it also guarantees that teachers will continue to be disillusioned with what has become of their job.

Hard Work vs. Smart Work – A Debate

The following is a guest post by Anish Passi, Director at Neostencil, an ed-tech startup funded by the Times Group. He previously founded Testcafe – also in the ed-tech space. He has extensive experience in the education industry, with past exposure to investment banking, technology, real estate, and retail consulting.

Hard work and smart work go hand in hand. There is no denying that people need to work hard to create a foundation for great achievements. However, if students work smart, they can do the same amount of work faster and efficiently. Teachers need to understand the thin line between making students work relentlessly hard and enabling them to learn smart work.

There is a preconceived notion among students that to succeed one must put in effort and work hard for it. Some people also think that one should give up everything else and focus all their energies on the final goal. While this is somewhat true, they can do the same amount of work in a shorter time by simply working smarter.

Merging Hard Work & Smart Work Together

To help students succeed in life, teachers should push students to practice both hard work and smart work simultaneously.  It is essential to work hard first because only then will students understand the depth of exactly what they are doing and then devise a smarter plan accordingly. The unfortunate truth is that in this fast-paced world, people want to switch to smart work but don’t put in any effort first. This could lead to a downfall. Like during preparation for competitive exams such as the UPSC, CAT, GMAT etc. people put in very little time to get the concepts right and jump to problem solving. Instead, they should focus more on concepts which would be hard work at the start but will make the process a lot simpler and easier.

Students must understand the project thoroughly, plan, and build a process around it. When they do this, they’ve framed all the possibilities, and only then can they undertake an easier way of completing the task. With teacher’s input, working smart won’t be much of an issue, and students will be able to work efficiently using fewer resources and time. The trick is to combine hard work and smart work.

Example: Every talented artist trains and gets mentored to perfect their skills. They spend years practicing without taking any breaks or shortcuts to make themselves the best. Once they reach the peak of success, they tend to make fewer errors and are more experienced. This results in better time management and less use of energy and effort. They have now become smart, but they started by working hard. This rule applies to every sphere of life.

Differences Between the Two

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between working hard vs working smart.

Meaning

Hard work means putting in a lot of time and effort doing a certain amount of work. Whereas, smart work means spending less amount of time performing the same amount of work.

Aim

Hard work aims at the quantity and may become monotonous and boring after a certain period. Smart work aims at achieving goals with quality.

Process of Working

Working hard involves a lot of tedious work which is carried out traditionally. But, if people work smartly, they can achieve more output by working in an unconventional and modern way which could include attending webinars, classes, and coaching.

Conceptualization

Hard work utilizes the traditional format of working, and there aren’t many changes involved. On the other hand, smart work involves using old ideas and transforming them to yield better results.

End Goal

People who work hard sometimes feel that they weren’t able to achieve their set goal. Smart workers attain their goals faster through proper time management.

A simple way to turn hard work into smart work is by understanding the aftermath of the process. If students keep on working continuously without any reliable results, then they should consider working smartly. Rather than focusing all the attention on just the work, think about all the alternatives that can be undertaken to do the same amount of work in less time. Set deadlines and goals that they should achieve in a set timeframe and prioritize the important tasks first. This way you will not waste a lot of time on unimportant things.

Contrary to this, some people believe that there is no replacement for hard work. Working smart is a shortcut that doesn’t work at all stages of life. Still, smart work has no doubt worked for many. If one can achieve the same quantity of work at the same time, that is not exactly a shortcut; it is just a better alternative.

Conclusion

If you can incorporate working hard and smart together, you will achieve great heights and lead yourself to a better life. One who works hard and smart will in due course of time procure all the benefits and rake in the golden opportunity to probably not work at all.