Essay Writing Hack for Struggling Students


Teaching Essay Writing?  Try this hack for helping struggling Middle School Students!


This year I am teaching 7th grade English Language Arts and I have two full classes of all ELL students.

As a result, I had the very difficult task of teaching 48 students who speak Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic and French as their first language how to write a text-based essay.

This was pretty new to all of them as no one would admit that they ever had to write a text-based essay in their country.

So I had to get creative.

At the outset, I taught them the parts of an essay with self-made videos and picture notes.  We used those notes as a reference with a fill-in-the-blank essay.  That seemed to work well enough but they still didn't seem to truly get it.
So then recently, I had an idea -  Essay Task Cards.  I took the prompt that we were working on and wrote out an essay.  Then I made a task card for each of the sentences.  


There's more than one way to learn the structure of an essay!  #teaching #middleschool


I had the students work in groups of 4 with 4 task cards at a time.  They decided on the answers together and if they couldn't agree, I would settle the disagreement.  ;)

The students put their answers on specially made answer sheets where they were required to write out the entire answer.   Each task card represented one sentence in the essay.  Students matched up the number on the task card with the number on their answer sheet.  Once a student had filled in every box on the answer sheet, he/she had an essay!  

Then we used the checklists to decide where the paragraphs would be in the essays.  Finally, students wrote out the essays on notebook paper.

There were so many "A-ha!" moments during this activity.  Students really got into the idea of identifying the right answer and understanding why it was right.  Then to see it all put together, it was like magic!  They were genuinely working to write and felt like they accomplished something big when they were finished!


It's like training wheels for an essay! #teaching #middleschool


I know that next year, I will definitely try this earlier and more often because it really helped the students make sense of essays.

Want to try this with your own students?  I have a prompt, texts, an organizer/checklist and task cards with answers all ready to go - just click here!

Thanks for stopping by!

22 comments

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