Remember having to write essays at school? What was the point of that?
You may think the main reason was for the teacher to check up on your spelling, grammar and punctuation – and that’s certainly part of the purpose. But there’s a great deal more to essay writing than technical accuracy.
An essay can
- Explain something to the reader
- Tell a story
- Outline a process or system
- Relate how different elements are connected – whether that’s historical facts or the impact of one chemical on another
Essays can be any length – although teachers may suggest a length for specific subjects.
An essay isn’t just a piece of work that you do as homework and hand in for marking. There are competitions for essay writers of all ages – some where there are cash prizes.
In addition, every student will find themselves writing essays on a wide range of subjects during their school life. Not just in class, but any narrative answer in an exam is, effectively, an essay.
Then at University, many degrees involve writing essays to explain the student’s understanding and opinion around a specified subject or event.
There are people who sell their essay-writing services to university students (otherwise known as cheating) and only exist because students haven’t developed that essay-writing skill during their school education.
Dissertations and Theses are long essays – and are often a substantial contribution to the final degree. That means that your kids need to develop this essential skill.
Once education is over, does that mean that essay-writing can be ditched? Not at all. A blog is a kind of essay, a newsletter is an essay, even a web page could be described as a short essay. Then there are reports at work – essay-writing is a life-skill!
The keys to success
If you’re not an essay-writer, you may find these steps useful to pass on to your children.
- Plan first – know where you’re starting from, what the main body has to cover and what the end will be.
- Sketch out the key facts or information that need to be included.
- Consider how your subject will be introduced and ensure the opening paragraph makes this clear.
- Having organised your key facts and information into a logical order, write a paragraph about each one.
TIP: A paragraph doesn’t have to be long – it can be one line, if that’s all it takes to say what you want to say. Some things may need more than one paragraph.
One thought per sentence, one idea per paragraph
- When you’ve written all the information part, think about how you can bring your essay to a tidy end. This might be a summary, a conclusion or a final thought.
Encourage your child to develop the essay-writing skill and you’ll give them a skill they can use for the rest of their life.