Step-by-Step Guide to Writing an Essay
So your teacher assigned another essay to write. Does the mere thought of putting pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard – send shivers down your spine? For many students in elementary, middle or high school, it does, but writing an essay shouldn’t be intimidating. As long as you know the basic steps of essay writing, you should be well-equipped to handle any essay topic.
Determine What Type of Essay It Is
There are many different types of essays you might be asked to write in elementary, middle or high school. Some of the most common include narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative and literary. Are you presenting an overview or telling a story about the topic (narrative) or are you providing an analysis (expository)? Do you have to convince the reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action (persuasive)? Are you writing an essay about a book you read (literary)? Determining the type of essay is the first step to writing a targeted essay.
Create an Essay Outline
An essay outline is your road map. It will guide you through to the finished product. When you create an outline, you organize your thoughts about your topic. First, write your topic at the top of the page. Then list all the points or arguments you want to make about the essay topic. Finally, list the facts, examples and statistics that support those points or arguments.
Develop a Thesis Statement
Your thesis should inform the reader what point you will be making or what question you will be answering about the topic. In other words, it is a prelude to your conclusion. A thesis statement should be as specific as possible and address one main idea. Strong theses also take a stand or illustrate the controversial nature of a topic.
Introduce Your Topic
The first paragraph of your essay will introduce your topic and provide direction for the entire essay. The introduction should discuss your main idea, or what the essay is about, then state your thesis and points or arguments that support your thesis.
The introduction also sets the tone for your essay, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. To capture the reader’s attention, you can make a challenging claim about the topic or present some surprising (but factual) information.
Write the Body of the Essay
The body of the essay provide details for the points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point then explain why you feel the topic sentence is true. Finally, support your argument with evidence such as facts, quotes, examples and statistics.
Present Your Conclusion
The conclusion summarizes the essay and gives the reader closure. In three or four concise sentences, you should reiterate your thesis and review the main points of the body of the essay. Just be sure not to restate your previous words exactly. You can even briefly describe your opinion of the topic. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner.
Just remember to tackle each step one at a time. Some people do better when they work backwards from the conclusion. Write a rough draft of your essay first – don’t try to get it perfect the first time through. After you finish your rough draft, proofread it thoroughly and revise until you have a strong, informative essay.
Interactive Essay Writing Classes
Online lessons like Time4Writing’s essay writing classes can help children build and strengthen the foundation for strong essay writing skills in elementary school, middle school, high school and beyond. These interactive essay writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
Time4Writing is popular as a writing homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment, for remediation, and as a summer school alternative. All of Time4Writing’s online lessons are led by certified writing teachers who provide valuable feedback after every writing assignment.
Learn more about Time4Writing today!
Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay
Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic. Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to. If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.
Types of Essays on Standardized Tests
When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write. There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis. Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.
For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.
The First Paragraph: The Introduction
The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:
- Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
- Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
- List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).
Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.
The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details
These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:
- First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
- Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
- Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.
Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.
The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion
The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write. In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis. Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.
When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.
If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.
Online instruction like the Time4Writing essay writing courses for elementary, middle and high school students can help children prepare for state and college-entrance standardized writing tests. These interactive writing classes build basic writing skills, explain essay types and structure, and teach students how to organize their ideas.
For general tips on test preparation and details about each state’s standardized tests, please visit our standardized test overview page.