Essay Helper Ideas for Middle School


Learn the winning essay helper ideas that allowed this middle school teacher to have top writing scores!

My middle school students range in ability level from very proficient to no experience with essays at all (because they are new to the United States).  You can imagine that I have had to get creative with essay helper ideas to get my students to learn essay writing.

I have done many things, from creating essay graphic organizers with sentence starters to creating differentiated lessons for citing evidence.

Those all are very useful but what I find my students needed was step-by-step plans for the writing process and each part of the essay.  Think of it as training wheels.  To do this I made step-by-step notes with anchor charts to match.

Anchor Charts are super essay helpers for struggling middle school writers remember how to write an essay!

Get a FREE copy of the digital writing anchor charts in my resource library for subscribers!  These are super essay helpers for students to refer to when they are writing or reviewing.  They give each step of each part of the writing process and each part of the essay itself.  Those steps are:

The Writing Process:

1. Read the Prompt

2. Flip the Prompt

3.  Read and Mark the Texts

4.  Plan

5.  Write

6.  Revise and Edit


1.  Hook

2.  Bridge

3.  Thesis


1.  Topic sentence with transition and reason from the thesis
2.  Evidence #1
3. Commentary
4.  Evidence #3
5.  Commentary
6.  Conclusion


1.  Affirm the thesis
2.  Trim the point
3.  The Call to Action

The notes I made were printable guided notes that match the structure from above.  

Guided Notes for Essay Writing Were the Essay Helpers That Made My Middle School Students Understand the Structure of Essays!

You can see that these notes are broken into sections and resemble Cornell notes.  The difference between these notes and Cornell notes is that these notes are fill-in-the-blank and have spaces for images to represent the information instead of questions.  

Each step has its own space and going back to review information was much easier.   I like the printable version best because when students write something by hand, it imprints on the brain and students remember it better.  But - there have been students needing digital versions for online learning so I made those too.

But the game-changer was that I recorded lessons that matched the notes.  If students were absent or if they wanted to review, they could re-watch the videos.  This essay helper made it easy for them to be able to fast forward and pause wherever they needed.   It worked really well because there was a plan for each phase of the process.  And if someone was struggling with a certain part, I had an easy reference point in the videos to which they could refer.  

Here's a sample of my video for informative planning:

I made them using a program called screencast-o-matic.  I placed links to these videos on our learning management system, Canvas. I really, really loved them as it came closer to state testing time and parents would ask me how they could review with their child for the exam. I would send them to the videos and explain there were notes to match.  

I received a lot of compliments, not just for the videos themselves but also for providing differentiation.  The videos provided another way for students to access the content and achieve the standards.  

Want to have these video lessons and notes too?  You can!  Click here to view the Informative and Argumentative Essay Units with printable notes and video lessons!

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