Teachers talk about essay structure and how parents can help, even if they're not familiar with the topic of the essay.
At a glance
- Determine 'what is the question asking?'
- Essays follow a specific formula.
- Introduction – state your response to the question and mention the points to be made in the body of the essay.
- Body – expand on the points introduced in the introduction. Don't introduce new thoughts at this stage.
- Conclusion – summarise the points discussed in the body.
- One idea per paragraph.
- Proofreading your child's essays helps them and lets you stay in touch with what they're doing at school.
Writing essays is a skill many of us have forgotten. Here are some reminders to help you and your child.
There are some really practical ways which a parent can help their child – it doesn't matter if they don't know the content themselves.
If they are writing essays, essays can be very overwhelming for students.
Parents can help children with their essay writing by organising their thoughts. To start with they need to discuss with their child, "What is the question and what is the question really asking?"
They need to carefully look at the questions they're being asked. The question should always have a key term – it's usually the first word of the question, it may be later, and they are things like explain, discuss, outline, analyze, identify.
Have a conversation around that and really nut out the key points and jot those key points down.
In each examination the verbs actually ask a really specific thing.
For example, if they're asking you to evaluate, what they're really doing is asking you to make a judgement about something.
If on the other hand they're asking you to just name and define something, they're asking you to name it and explain what that thing is about.
But they are different things, so a student really needs to understand what the verb of the question is asking for them to do it and be successful at responding to that.
Circle the important words in the question and make sure you focus on what they're asking you to do, not what you want to do.
Essays follow a very specific formula.
Practise your essay structure, so that you're following the introduction, body and conclusion.
They start with an introduction that introduces everything that's going to be discussed in the essay that will follow.
Really make sure you're addressing "What is the question asking?" and put forward your response to it.
And just in very key, short sentences, the points that you're going to be discussing in your essay to support your answer.
Those key points form your introduction and each point starts a paragraph.
Topic sentences which introduce what each paragraph is going to be about.
In each paragraph you need to expand on that point, to elaborate and explain – and draw upon the text or the sources – why it is that you are putting forward this point of view or this argument.
Knowing your language features – so metaphor, simile, personification.
You have an example from your text, and then you explain the effect of using that language feature because authors don't use language features just to pad, they use it to have an effect on the audience, so it's important that the students understand that and it's got to relate back to that question.
Every idea is a new paragraph so that they don't end up with gi-normous paragraphs. One idea one paragraph. Students should be learning that from primary school.
Then your conclusion needs to sum it all up, but you never include any new information because that shows you haven't planned.
So the introduction introduces all the points of an essay, and then each point is expanded on in the subsequent paragraphs and then all of those points are rounded up and brought together in the conclusion.
We say, essay writing:
- Introduction – say what you're going to say.
- Body – say it.
- Conclusion – say what you've said.
One thing that parents can do to help their children in high school is to proofread their homework.
By proofreading you'll not only help your child, and offer a sense of support, that can help them feel more confident with the work that they're then submitting, but it can really help inform the parent about where their child is at.
You get to learn more about their life in high school, as well as where they're at academically and ways that you can help them.
There are more videos, articles and glossaries to help your child with writing at www.schoolatoz.com.au
One of the main challenges of parenting is awakening the child’s desire to learn, explore, discover, and express. Sure, we can leave the education part to the teachers and the iPad, but is that the right solution? No! Sometimes, parents have to interfere. It’s their job to be the first teachers their children will ever have.
As your children make progress through different educational levels, they will be expected to write. A lot! College and university, in particular, are heavily linked to academic writing. Your kid will have to write essays, research papers, term papers, and, hopefully, an entire dissertation. The first challenge is an essay.
The teacher assigns an essay with broad guidelines, and your little student is expected to deliver a masterful piece by a precise deadline. You’ll probably face a very frustrated child at this point. Your kid is supposed to write an entire paper, but no one taught them how to do that. Maybe they were writing short stories before, but an essay is a whole other thing. How do you help them write a perfect paper? There are 5 steps to success.
Practice, practice, practice!
A professor of education at Arizona State University reviewed around 250 studies on how to help students develop writing skills. Professor Steve Graham was trying to answer the age-old question: is it best to leave students to learn writing naturally, or do they achieve better results when they get instructions? He found that effective practices do help with the progress. Here’s the first tip he gives: spend more time writing.
The writing practice is not applied in the classroom. Teachers may give brief exercises, but what they prefer doing is using the classroom time for lessons and leaving the practice part as a homework activity. So, you’re in charge of that part of your kid’s education.
If you want your kid to write great essays, you need to motivate them to write a lot. Think of a theme of the day. What did they learn today? Did they learn about the solar system? Set a topic: “If you could visit any planet, which one would you choose? How do you imagine life there?” The following day, set a realistic topic: “Do research on Africa. Write about the way animals live there.”
Make sure these topics are interesting for your kid.
An essay usually consists of 5 paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Teachers usually explain what each paragraph is supposed to contain when assigning the first essay to the class. However, sometimes they forget to provide examples, so the students have no idea how the actual paper would look like.
At the website of any essay writing service, you’ll find great guidelines and samples of various types of papers. Give few of them to your kid to read, and help them envision what a proper essay looks like.
Use Pinterest to organize resources
Pinterest is a really fun tool for creating visual material you find on the web. Parents like using it for collecting parenting tips, home decor ideas, photos of beautiful clothes, and much more. Now, you can start creating special boards for your kid’s essays.
The essay writing process starts with good research. Before your child can write a paper on a topic, they need to learn something about it. They won’t be able to memorize all information they read online. Moreover, they will need to save the resources, so they can reference them in the paper. That’s why Pinterest is a great tool to use during this stage. Whenever you find an interesting source of information, pin it in the relevant board.
Once your kid is inspired enough through the online material you both located, they can proceed to the following stage.
Brainstorm and plan
One of the main requirements for an essay is cohesion. If you assign a topic and let your kid write whatever comes to his or her mind, you’ll end up reading a disconnected essay that the teacher won’t like. That’s why it’s important to start the process with brainstorming and planning.
- MindMeister is one of the most effective online brainstorming tools. If your kid is not that good at using the computer, you can create the map as he or she comes up with ideas. The mind maps created with this tool are highly visual, and they help the user find connections between the arguments.
- When the writer-to-be gets the main ideas through the brainstorming process, it’s time for planning. Essay Map is a great tool that helps fit those ideas in a proper essay structure. It asks the writer to create a few sentences for each section of the paper, and then it offers a map for the essay. After that, it will be really easy to connect the dots and write the actual paper.
Let them use the tablet
Does your kid think that the tablet is much more fun than plain pen-and-paper? That’s okay. We’re dealing with tech generation, after all. You can use your child’s preference for technology to inspire him or her to write. Byword is a great text editor for iPad. It makes the process of writing clean and simple, and it has a neat markdown feature.
To make the essay writing process more fun, you can use Bamboo Paper – an app that simulates the process of writing with a real pen on a real paper.
Beware: the process won’t be easy. Your kid will likely show some resistance to essay writing. What’s the best method to fight resistance? Persistence! Inspire your kid to practice more, but think of more amusing topics every time. When you manage to turn writing into a daily routine, the success will be inevitable.
Karen Dikson is a teacher and a writer from New Jersey. Her works have been published on Huffington Post and other well-known educational resources. She loves to help her students succeed and achieve their goals. Connect with Karen on Twitter
Follow the Parent Toolkit on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.