Top 4 Informative Essay Writing Teaching Hacks

 

Use my 4 Informative Essay Teaching Hacks to Help Your Middle School Students "Get it"!


As a special needs teacher, I am often asked what ideas I have for making content accessible for struggling students.  And essay writing is the most asked-about topic of them all. 


I think students think of writing as complete and utter drudgery because they just don't get it. Many times teachers give examples of writing and even complex acronyms to try and remember the order of items that need to be in paragraphs, but the students still don't “get it”.  
 
So what do I do?  Here are my Top 4 Informative Essay Writing Hacks: 


Informative Essay Hack #1:  Use the writing process

When I say use the writing process, I mean this:
  1. Read the prompt
  2. Flip the prompt
  3. Read and Mark the text
  4. Teach each kind of paragraph *
  5. Plan
  6. Write
* Number 4 isn't really part of the writing process and it's not something I teach my students as a step - it's just something I do when I am teaching essay writing for the first time each year.

I know there's a huge temptation to teach just the body paragraph first and I get that.  And I think when it's taught separately from essays completely, it can work.

For years, we taught central idea/theme and citing evidence as our first unit.  We would read a novel and keep a double-entry journal.  That worked very well for us in teaching students how to write an academic paragraph that later severed as a body paragraph.

However, to just throw up a thesis (that the students had no hand in writing) and then provide some kind of acronym and expect students to just "get it" is probably not going to work because it's not connected or grounded in anything. Students need to understand the process.



Informative Essay Hack #2:  Teach each kind of paragraph in the essay

This is from "step" #4 above.  As I am teaching essay writing for the first time in the school year, I pause before planning to teach/review each kind of paragraph in the essay.  I mean how can they plan if they don't know what belongs in the essay?

To do this, I created notes that break down the minimum number of sentences and what should be in each sentence.

For example, the minimum number of sentences in an introduction paragraph should be 3: Hook, Arch (Bridge/Transition), and Thesis. 

Step-by-step notes for each paragraph type in an essay is the way to help struggling Middle School writers "get it"!



Students have a definition and an example using the prompt and text we already used in steps 1, 2, and 3.

I continue this all the way through the conclusion and then we plan.


Informative Essay Hack #3: Use a great planning sheet

In my class, I use a special kind of planning sheet.  It's a kind of flow map with sentence starters. It visually shows the progression of the essay and doesn't leave too much room so students aren't tempted to write out full sentences.  

We don't encourage our students to write out full sentences because essay writing has been historically timed so we need to make sure our students have enough time to write out the essay.

Using an informative essay planning sheet with sentence starters with your Middle School students is a great way to get them on the right track!

Get a FREE copy of my informative essay planning sheet by clicking here.


Informative Essay Hack #4:  Practice without writing entire essays

Students need to practice their essay-writing skills, that's for sure - but to write a complete essay every time is just too much work for everyone!

Instead, I use 
task cards - Students can get up and move if you play Scatter!
digital puzzles - We have to include some digital in our lessons.
cloze activities - Fill in the blank review which could also double as a quiz
collaborative essays - get students working together
Essay challenge activity - as students complete the sections, they can earn a reward!  


I even have bell-ringers for a week that do nothing other than have students practice introduction paragraphs for example.  


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I know all of these things can take a lot of time to create and prepare because it's taken me years to develop these things into activities that not only do the job but produce results as well!

I put most of them together in this 5 week curriculum:





OR if you just want to get the basics, try my fundamentals unit:






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They are both available on Teachers Pay Teachers too:


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Use my 4 Informative Essay Teaching Hacks to Help Your Middle School Students "Get it"!














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