Essay-writing may seem like one of those skills that you will never use after you finish school – like geometry or trigonometry. However, it is crucial skill that lends itself to learning self-expression and organization of thought.
It also helps to develop writing skills which, later in life, become quite important as most jobs require some sort of writing component.
I know it’s probably been a spell since you, yourself, have written an essay. So here’s a crash course in essay writing that will help you lend support to your child as they begin writing essays for school:
#1: Sentence Structure and Paragraphs
Make sure your child’s sentences are complete and not simply sentence fragments. The sentence should clearly convey a complete thought without leaving the reader hanging – but it should also not run-on and include more than one thought.
Complete: After the rain stops, the children will go outside.
Incomplete: After the rain stops.
Run-On: After the rain stops, the children will go outside wearing their coats and rain boots and take turns jumping in puddles before swinging on the swings and sliding down the wet slides.
Properly formed sentences must also be organized into paragraphs. A paragraph consists of two or more sentences grouped together to develop a single idea.
#2: Choosing the Thesis
The thesis is the central point or argument of the essay. At earlier ages, your child’s teacher will likely give them a topic to write about. As they progress through school, they will eventually choose their own argument to focus their essay on.
A thesis is basically making a claim or asking a question. Writing the essay is backing up that claim or answering the question.
#3: Understanding the Main Sections of an Essay
There are 3 main sections of an essay:
- The Introduction
- The Body
- The Conclusion
The introduction is usually 1-2 paragraphs and gives a very brief and general idea of the topic being discussed in the essay. It lays out the thesis statement and provides a quick “road map” to the reader of how the thesis will be proven, unproven or answered.
Evidence for or against the thesis is given in the body of the essay, which consists of as many paragraphs necessary to prove the point. Each paragraph should, in some way, relate back to the thesis.
In the conclusion, all the information given throughout the essay is wrapped up and the main argument is restated. Conclusions often leave the reader with information that keeps them thinking.
#4: Creating an Outline
An outline is important in organizing all that information that goes into the body of the essay. Have your child write down all their thoughts about the topic and then see if any relate enough to each other to be included in the same paragraphs.
Once these ideas are grouped together, they should be listed from weakest point to strongest point. As the reader works through the information, saving your strongest argument until the end has a bigger impact.
If I was writing an essay about the importance of wearing socks, I am likely to begin with the argument that socks are used as a fashion piece and end with the health benefits of keeping my feet covered and warm. Wearing socks for health reasons is far more impactful than wearing them to look pretty – although both are valid arguments for wearing socks.
#5: Properly Citing Sources
Any essay your child writes, whether it’s about emperor penguins or who was the best president in history, needs evidence that is backed up by outside sources. These sources can be books, articles, interviews or websites.
If these sources are not properly cited, then the essay may be considered plagiarized. Any idea or thought that is not original must be cited on the last page of the essay.
In order to give proper credit to the sources of information, check out these examples of cited works. Note how each entry is organized alphabetically by name or first word.
#6: Proofreading and Editing
Once the essay is complete, it should be proofread not only by a computer, but by your child as well. While the spellcheck feature in word processors is invaluable, they are not always 100% accurate.
Print out a draft of the essay and have your child read it over. Use a red pen to circle or note any mistakes that need to be corrected.