When your teacher gives you an essay assignment, what is your initial reaction? Uncertainty? Fear? Dread? In a large class, the teacher definitely notices the resistance that comes from students who dislike essay assignments or essay tests. But have no fear. There are some simple things that you can learn to make writing an essay easier. It's also worth knowing that there is a formula for writing an essay which you can use as a basis for your work. This is called the five-paragraph essay.
The five-paragraph essay is no secret. Everyone knows about it. The problem is that students fail to pay close attention when it's taught in class, but this isn't rocket science. Pay attention and you'll succeed.
These are the steps you take in writing an essay:
- The teacher gives you an assignment
- You think about how you want to approach the topic or you are allowed to chose a topic.
- Brainstorm and prewrite. This might involve the creation of an outline. Once you have your outline completed, you can begin to write the essay. If you don't create an outline, that's okay, as long as you know how you want to organize your work. Good organization of your ideas will be noticed by the reader.
- Write a rough draft. This is written according to your outline, or the rougt draft could be a writer's first attempt to get as much of the essay completed as possible, knowing that the rough draft will be revised.
- Write a second draft. This is the revised rough draft in which you really try to pay attention to the structure of your essay and follow the rules of good grammar. Show your work to someone or, if possible, let the second draft rest for a few days and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.
- After receiving freedback from another student or a teacher or a friend, write your third and final draft of the essay.
It is helpful to start with an outline; however, it's not always necessary nor is it possible to write an outline if you are under time constraints that might be imposed during an essay test. At the very least, you can jot down your ideas on a piece of paper before you begin so that you can consider how your essay will be organized.
What goes into each paragraph of the essay? Let me explain what the content should consist of and then I'll show you an example.
I. Introduction. This is the first paragraph. This is where you explain your position, your topic, or your thesis.
II. Second paragraph. This paragraph provides more detailed explanation for a statement made in the first paragraph. The next two paragraphs do the same thing; however, the second, third, and fourth paragraphs each address a specific example or idea that is in support of the position, the topic, or the thesis stated in the first paragraph.
III. Third paragraph. This may offer a more specific example in support of the topic.
IV. Fourth paragraph. This is the third example is support of the topic, and it may offer some kind of transition to the final paragraph.
V. Conclusion. This is the fifth paragraph. It summarizes what has already been said, it refers to the position or the topic that was addressed in the first paragraph, and--if possible--it leaves the reader with some sort of lasting impression or it ends with a bold, final statement that concludes the paragraph. Concluding paragraphs, like concluding sentences, can be difficult to write because they summarize without obviously saying exactly the same things that were already mentioned.
In the next part of the lesson, let's look at an example of a five-paragraph essay.