Essay writing is an important and rewarding skill to teach kids, one that will help them succeed both educationally and emotionally. Teaching essay writing can also be difficult however, as children struggle to both craft strong sentences, structure an essay, and express themselves on a personal level. It is important to be organized and methodical in your approach, particularly if essay writing is something your child struggles with; for children who are more creatively inclined, the process may be easier.
Ensure the child has a basic, age- or grade-appropriate grasp of grammar and spelling concepts. Without these building blocks, your attempts at teaching essay writing will only result in frustration to you and the child.
Introduce the concept of a thesis. Many children have difficulty directing their essays when first learning essay writing. For younger children or those struggling with writing concepts, you may want to provide the child with a thesis statement or thesis prompts. Children with more advanced writing skills may successfully hone their own thesis statement, once you explain the concept. Explain a thesis as the "main point" around which the entire essay, no matter how long or short, revolves. Every sentence, paragraph, and page in the essay should be relevant to the thesis.
Explain how to create an outline. Another thing children often struggle with when learning essay writing is crafting an outline and creating a logical progression from sentence-to-sentence, paragraph-to-paragraph. When children learn sentence construction, they focus on creating a sentence unit which is cohesive, expressive and grammatically correct; when learning essay writing, they are learning how to make those sentences relate to one another. Discuss the idea of an introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and how to logically structure the flow of the paragraphs in between. Just as each paragraph should directly relate to the essay's thesis, it should also flow intelligently from the sentence before it and to the sentence following.
Provide examples. Kids need to see examples of good essays to be able to create their own. Be as hands-on as they need through the creation of the first essay or two; as they write, they will grow increasingly confident of their abilities. Some kids will also benefit from "should/should not" examples, showing what a good introductory paragraph, thesis, and other parts of the essay should look like and what it definitely should not look like.
Practice essay writing with the child. It is true that practice makes perfect. Ultimately the most effective way to teach children essay writing is to have them practice over and over. Once you give them the conceptual building blocks, helping them implement their essays will be the surest way to help them develop excellent essay-writing skills.
While perfection is not necessary--essay writing is an excellent way to hone grammar skills, increase vocabulary, and encourage familiarity with a wide variety of sentence constructions--basic writing skills should be emphasized prior to teaching the more complicated skills of essay writing.
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