The Writing Process for Essays Simplified

 

Get a simple plan for your middle school students to use when writing an essay!


At the beginning of every year, we have our middle school students complete an essay diagnostic.  We give them some texts and a prompt and just let them go.  We're looking to see if they have any method to their writing process and then of course we check their writing for focus, organization, support and conventions.  


You will probably not be surprised to learn that our students seem to always forget that writing is a process.  So every year, I make it a point to teach these 5 simple steps:


Step #1:  Read the Prompt.

This may sound silly, but many students mis-read the prompt.  They turn an informative essay into an argumentative one and visa versa.  So I always go over the prompt with the students and have them write down what kind of essay it is going to be and what the topic is.  Then we look for the words "write an essay" to determine what we are going to write about that topic.

Step #2:  Flip the Prompt.

Now that we have read and dissected the prompt a bit, we take the same words from the prompt and flip it into a "thesis skeleton".  By this I mean that if the prompt says "Write an essay in which you take a position on the origin of crop circles", then I am going to write:

After reading multiple texts, it is clear to see that the origin of crop circles is alien because of _____,  ______,  and ______.

You can see there are some "bare bones" there and after we complete step #3 (Read and Mark the Text), we will come back and fill in those blanks with reasons that the crop circles are of alien origin.  Now we have set a purpose for reading and are ready for step #3.

Step #3:  Read and Mark the Text

The first time I teach reading and marking the text, we complete this as a class.  I will read an entire paragraph or a few sentences and then stop to re-read the thesis skeleton.  Then I will ask my students "Is there anything that we just read that tells us that crop circles are of alien origin?"  If so, we highlight it.  If not, we cross out what we have already read. Why do we cross it out?  So we won't go back and waste time re-reading text that does not apply.  (In my state, writing tests are timed.)

After we read and mark the entire text set, then we are ready for step 4.

Step #4:  Planning


Planning is the third step in this simple writing process for essays.



Students generally balk at the idea of planning.  They think it is a waste of time and that they should just write based on what they have highlighted.  But once I show them that they don't have to write down everything - in fact I tell them they are not allowed to write down everything - then they humor me.  

I use a flow map that shows the structure and progression of the paragraphs.  Each paragraph has a specific mnemonic that helps the students remember what goes where.  

We spend time choosing the best evidence from what we highlighted as we work on the planning sheet.



Step#5:  Write the Essay

Finally, using that planning sheet like a map, students use that to write their final essay.  The first time we work through this process, I actually show them under the document camera how I take what I have on my planning sheet and "convert" that to sentences and paragraphs in the rough draft.


Honestly, this process can take up to a week to complete as a class, but once you have gone though it once, you can refer back to it all year long.

This is exactly the process I use in my Informative and Argumentative Digital Essay Units.  They even come with 2 weeks of videos instruction!  Perfect for hybrid or virtual classes!




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Use these 5 easy steps to teach your middle school students how to write text-based essays!



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