3 Essay Writing Interventions


3 Interventions For Middle School Essay Writing Skills

This year, more than ever, I can see that our middle school students lack some basic essay writing skills.  When it came time to determine what they know about essay writing, it was clear that they had had a firm foundation at one point, but had lost many of the bits and pieces along the way before arriving in middle school. They absolutely struggled with being able to organize an essay and could not seem to remember how to approach the whole essay writing process.  It was clear to me that we needed some interventions.

1.  Simply the framework.

I found that many of our students simply forgot what the structure of an essay is all about.  They need a clear-cut plan for writing.  Now, this may seem a bit formulaic and as teachers, we like to give our students options to exercise their creativity. BUT - when students are lost, they aren't worried about creativity - they're worried about understanding what to do.  That's where these notes come in:

These notes help middle school students review the structure of an essay quickly and easily!

These notes lay out the pattern of writing an informative essay in clear, plain language.  Once students have mastered this basic structure, then I will surely add nuances including different ways to elaborate.  But for now, the intervention is all about getting that structure down-pat.

2.  Use Essay Frames

By essay frame, I mean a fill-in-the-blank essay.  This one is from the book Tangerine:

Essay Frames are a great intervention to use with struggling learners in middle school!

As you can see, I put all the structure in the frame and the students had to fill in the blanks with their evidence and elaboration.  It's a great way to put some training wheels on the essay.

3.  Provide different kinds of practice that are not writing full essays

So maybe this one seems obvious.  Students need practice but writing a full essay is absolutely not going to work.  So what to do?  

Well for introduction practice, I made these "micro" texts and asked students to write an introduction based on them.  You can either do one per day as part of a bell work routine or you could have students complete them in groups.

Practice Essay Introductions in Middle School Without Writing An Entire Essay!

I also made a body paragraph practice where students read one text and then are given an introduction paragraph.  Then their job is to use the given materials to write 3 body paragraphs.

Body Paragraph Practice for Middle School Students Provides a Great Intervention Without the Headache!

If you need to get your students up and moving, create a gallery walk using these task cards that review introduction components like hook, "arch" (transition sentence between hook and thesis), and thesis as well as relevant and irrelevant evidence and commentary.  Not only does the movement engage students, but the cards also allow you to walk around and facilitate.  Plus, this is easy to grade!

Middle School students love using task cards as part of a gallery walk to review parts of an essay!

These are just a few of the informative essay writing interventions you could try with your students.  Hopefully, I have given you some ideas that you can try!

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3 Things you can do when your Middle School students don't get it.