How to Simplify Essay Writing for Students
Last week I shared with you the TEACH method as a way to help your students learn to write a text-based essay. If you missed it, you can click here to see it now.
Using the TEACH method may take some time to introduce and master, but I have found it to be very beneficial to my students.
As you know, there are many different ways to teach essay writing. I want to explain a second strategy you can pair with TEACH or another acronym.
The method is simply focusing on one single point or standard until it is mastered.
Single Standard Writing
Many teachers are using Single Point Rubrics as a way to get students focused on mastering just one skill. In single standard writing, teachers introduce students to one concept and do not move on from that concept until they have fully mastered it.
When it comes to writing a text-based essay, it would be a similar format to the above, with students working on one part of the essay until the teacher felt they mastered the element.
I have a teacher friend who taught text-based essay writing using this method, and she had great success with it. Her students developed excellent writing skills and had a thorough understanding of what a text-based essay should look like – even though they only had 20 minutes for writing each day.
Simplify Text-Based Essays by Focusing on A Single Standard
The first skill to teach in this method is the topic sentence/thesis statement.
Introduce the concept of a topic sentence. Explain the purpose of the topic sentence and the place it serves in the essay as a whole.
Give students different paragraphs to practice finding the topic sentence of the paragraph.
Once you feel your students understand how to find the topic sentence, give them the prompt and a text you are using for the assignment and let them write a thesis statement.
Give extra support where it is needed and be prepared to have some students finish before others.
The second skill that should be taught in this method is the introductory paragraph.
Introduce the concept of an introductory paragraph. Explain why it is important to a text-based (or really any) essay.
Give students different short essays and have them analyze the introductory paragraphs. What information is included in the paragraph? How does it connect to the rest of the essay?
Have students show you where they think the topic sentence is in the introductory paragraph too. This will help you in two ways:
- It can give those who have finished first something else to do
- It allows those who are having a more difficult time a bit of breathing room
When you feel your students have a good understanding of what an introductory paragraph should look like and what service it performs, have them write out the introductory paragraph for the essay you are writing.
Again, remember that you have students that will finish before others and students who will struggle with this concept.
Finding Evidence for Supporting Paragraphs
The third skill that is taught in this method is finding evidence for supporting paragraphs.
Introduce the concept of evidence and give a thorough explanation of why evidence is important.
Once you’ve done that, have students search the text to find evidence.
When you are confident that they are finding text that has supporting evidence, you can have students work on supporting paragraphs for their essay.
Teachers should check to make sure students are selecting evidence that supports their topic sentence/thesis. Students should be able to find multiple pieces of evidence to support their thesis statement.
The fourth skill that should be taught in this method is analysis.
Students should look through what they’ve written and make sure that it all works together. Is the topic sentence in the introductory paragraph? Does the text evidence they used correlate to the thesis statement?
Adding analysis is where students often have difficulty. Students need to understand that the analysis should explain how the evidence supports their thesis. It should also be connected to the texts – not their personal life.
When students finish their analysis, they can edit their work. When editing their work, students should look for things like punctuation, capital letters, proper grammar, etc.
Benefits of the Single-Standard Method
One of the significant benefits of using this method is that teachers only have to evaluate one element of an essay at a time. When the whole class is focused on the topic sentence, that is all the teacher has to assess, too.
Focusing on a single standard can make moving from element to element a lot faster. Teachers can quickly assess the one standard and see if the student has mastered it or needs more practice.
Another benefit is that you can be absolutely sure that your students understand the focus standard. Much like a math problem, if you get one element incorrect during the essay writing process, you have to start the entire thing over again – which frustrates the student.
Being able to check on your students throughout the process prevents students from wasting time working on something incorrect. The teacher acts as a checkpoint for their essays and doesn’t let them continue if they haven’t truly mastered the skill.
Potential Roadblocks of the Single-Standard Method
If you are teaching your class as a whole group, some students will finish before others.
Unless you teach in small groups of students, what do the finished students do while they wait for the rest of the class?
As we all know, idle hands make for disruptive students.
If you plan on using the single standard method, make sure you have some quick activities on hand to give to students while they wait for the next skill to be introduced.
Do you have questions about teaching students to write a text-based essay? I’d love to hear from you!
Are you looking for resources to make your classroom a success? I can help!
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