Great Ways To Start An Essay – I student taught in a classroom where each student was given a hamburger graphic organizer and they were taught to fill in all the parts of the hamburger if they wanted to make a “good essay.” The children seemed bored as they deliberately wrote sentences that corresponded to the graphic organizer. Their essays were lackluster, but they followed a formula, which was supposed to help them do better on the “test.”
When I first started teaching the personal essay in my classroom, I required all of my fifth graders to have three body paragraphs to support their thesis statement that they wrote in the opening paragraph because they had to write five paragraph essays (which now I come to realize is an artificial construction). After several years of teaching the personal essay, I’ve become better at helping students gather a variety of information (eg, anecdotes, quotes, observations, statistics) to help them prove their points. Students would review their thought folders for each of their “body paragraphs” on draft day. They would reject evidence that does not support their sentence. Then they would connect all their thoughts into one paragraph. As a result, many of the student body paragraphs were a page or two long because each paragraph contained different information to support their topic sentence (which is one of the three supports for their thesis).
- 1 Great Ways To Start An Essay
- 2 How To Start An Essay About Yourself: Proven Tips And Tricks
- 3 Michael Wilkinson On Linkedin: How You Can Make Anything You Write Worth Reading Most People Think You…
Great Ways To Start An Essay
As a public school teacher in New York City, I attended Calendar Days organized by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In November 2004, I attended a session preparing teachers in New York to teach students about personal and literary essays. Although personal essays are five paragraphs long and literary essays are four paragraphs long, this is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about essays in a way that makes them — dare I say it — fun to write. I enjoyed as much as I could from that day of professional learning and teaching my students to embrace essay writing without using the hamburger chart. All of my students gathered thoughts to prove a point, which helped them create essays about topics that were meaningful to them as people. They may still be formulated, but my students were invested in writing them.
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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 in the countryside during the French Revolution. He called his efforts writing
It can be challenging to wrap your head around an essay more than something that has a thesis statement that someone is trying to prove to someone. If we adopt the original meaning of the essay in classrooms, then we can teach children to develop ideas on paper that reflect their thinking about a topic.
Kathryn Bomer offers a working definition of the essay in her book The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them (Heinemann, 2016):
It’s a big step for a writer to go from proving something with topic-focused paragraphs and closing sentences to increasingly provocative ideas with complexity and depth.
How To Start An Essay About Yourself: Proven Tips And Tricks
If my 2020 self could provide some professional development to my early 2000s self, I would encourage students to move away from the five paragraph structure. Just because two pieces of evidence are related doesn’t mean they should be in the same paragraph! Here’s a chart I would share with my early career to help teach kids about the reasons writers use paragraphs.
Of course, like everything else, I would tell my early career to make sure kids know the rules before they break them. That is, once a child understands paragraph structure, I would encourage that child to be inventive in how they used paragraphs when writing an essay.
I have come to believe that it is necessary for teachers to delve into different types of essay writing. First, we need to find essays that go beyond the five-paragraph essays we’ve been writing and teaching for years. Here are two places to look:
I advise you to immerse yourself in writing the essays with the above titles before you give the essay writing unit to the students so that you can imagine what the final product of the mind journey essay looks like. As you read, write down your favorite lines. Pay attention to the qualities you admire. Read again with different lenses. Then talk to your peers—who also want to change the way they teach the essay—so you can work on the essays you’re studying together.
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Once you’re done delving into a few essays, you can jump right in and write your own. Or, if you’re studying with other teachers who want to go beyond the five-paragraph essay, consider writing collaboratively with your colleagues. This will allow you to experience the way essay writers should think (and write to research) in terms of structure. In addition, it will give you a way to discover how you might use collaborative writing as a starting point for doing writing-to-thinking work with your students. Once you’ve written a few pieces to share with your peers, you can write your own essay, which you can use as a mentor text with your students.
TIP: When you first write an essay that reflects Bomer’s definition of an essay (above), don’t think about standards, learning sequences, or lessons you might be teaching. Choose a topic that you would like to explore in your writing that has meaning and value to you. Then write about it, just like the authors of the above essays did in their essays. It’s okay to try this type of work and feel like you failed at it the first few times. It’s called being human. After years of training to write an essay in a formulaic way, it takes time to retrain yourself to write differently. I promise you, as someone who has written a few non-formulaic essays, that it is possible to retrain yourself to write an essay that is meaningful and provocative, but doesn’t necessarily win the argument at the end. I find that I still do things like use transitional phrases, but I no longer worry that every paragraph starts with a topic sentence, has three detailed sentences, and ends with a concluding sentence.
There will be times in our students’ lives (eg standardized tests) when they need to write essays that require them to make a claim and prove it over the course of several well-structured paragraphs. However, if we want to prepare students for these types of tasks, then it is important to teach them how to do it
, or try to develop new ideas and understanding in their writing. We need to go beyond the five-paragraph formula so kids don’t write formulas. When we move beyond the five-paragraph essay, we free our students to “explore, explain, and express” (Bomer, 2016, 22). If we can teach students to think through an idea in a few pages to arrive at a new understanding, then we are teaching them a valuable life skill.
Michael Wilkinson On Linkedin: How You Can Make Anything You Write Worth Reading Most People Think You…
What did you think about moving beyond the five paragraph essay? What do you plan to read to go over to help you get past the five paragraph essay with your students? (Next on my reading list is
By John Warner.) What will you do to take the next steps to change the way your peers view the essay? Share your thoughts below.
I am a literacy consultant who focuses on the writing workshop. 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-Blosser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Dai Bi Dai (Stenhouse, 2010). ). I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my spare time I like to swim, do pilates, cook, bake, make ice cream and read novels. View all posts by Stacey Shubitz. Some days life can seem like an endless series of explanations. You explain to your family why your job has been such a struggle lately. You explain to your landlord that you are not actually a millionaire and therefore deserve a rent reduction. Although you may be tired of all this explaining, it gives you the foundation for a good expository essay. With a little refinement and helpful tips, you’ll learn how to write an expository essay that will amaze and amaze.
, which, yes, refers to explanation, but is a more comprehensive and critical explanation of a particular idea, theory or topic.
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Demonstration refers to uncovering information or ideas that may be deeper within a subject through research and critical analysis.
At first glance, the expository essay appears to be synonymous with the narrative essay and the descriptive essay. And it’s true that your expository essay will likely contain some elements of narrative (explaining by telling stories) and description (providing details about the topic).
In practice: The description will give you details about a
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