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Essay writing made easy
09.03.2015, 19:08

Essay writing made easy (part 1)

Conducted by PCV Andrea Zimmerman

Friday, October 8, 2010

Warm-up activity

Quick introductions of PCV and teachers (5 minutes)

“Ode to you” poem – Put teachers in pairs and explain how to write the “ode” using the formula below and when finished, ask a few volunteers to read their poems. (10 minutes)

Name an object/person you’d like to write about

Write two adjectives to describe

Where is it?

Repeat its name

What is it doing?

How is it doing? (Use adverbs/ often ending in –ly)

Repeat where it is

Repeat adjectives

Add two more adjectives

Repeat the name again


Solicit comments from teachers about teaching writing in a Ukrainian classroom. Discuss challenges faced, why these challenges exist, and the advantages/disadvantages of EFL writing. (2 min.)

There are many types of writing, but today’s pairs will focus on essay writing. (explain British English “composition”/American English “essay”)

Refer to formulaic poem activity, and draw connections to how these guidelines made writing a poem easier. This is the same format we will use for writing an essay.

Explain the history of five-paragraph essay writing in America, pros and cons, and how it is used in EFL/ESL teaching. (3 min.)

Ask teachers to describe the writing process. How many steps are involved? Describe my personal experience with Ukrainian student writing. (3 min.)

Introduce five-paragraph essay formula (hamburger flipchart/essay structure flipchart) (10 min.)

Introduce terms: introduction, hook, thesis statement, body, topic sentence, supporting sentences, conclusion, re-stated thesis statement, closing sentence


Play pick-up vocabulary game to review terms and ensure familiarity (5 min.)

Give teachers a sample essay to practice identifying the parts of the essay. (5-7 minutes). Review parts, discuss findings.


Now that all terms/structure are understood, let’s talk about the writing process. (Six-step writing process: Assess the topic/Brainstorm ideas, Organize ideas, Write the first draft, Revise, Edit, Write final draft.)

Ask teachers to put these six steps in order according to logic. (3 minutes)

Dissect each step:

  • Assess the topic: What is the question really asking?
  • Brainstorm: Introduce graphic organizers (10 minutes)
  • Most popular: Story web
  • Do this on the board with teacher’s help
  • Why I want to go to America?
  • Comparing/contrasting
  • Venn Diagram
  • Pro/con list
  • Idea to practice: Borscht vs. holubtsi
  • Now, prioritize your ideas
  • Organize ideas (give teachers the outline handout) (5 minutes)
  • Now that you understand the basic structure, let’s take our brainstormed ideas and put them into our outline.
  • Your essay is almost complete!

End of first session.

Essay writing made easy (part 2)


Basic parts of the essay, six-step writing process


Give teachers an essay topic. Tell them to assess the topic, brainstorm the ideas (mapping), then prioritize and put them into the outline handout. (10 minutes)

Discussion (5-10 minutes)


Writing the first draft – Now that you have a plan, it’s time to execute! Quote from former editor, “Kid, just stick your finger down your throat and throw it up!” In other words, just do it!

Revising, editing: what is the difference? Revising – major structural changes/draw picture of a house on the board with everything in the wrong place. Editing – go in with a magnifying glass to make little changes.

This is a time when you can work on making your sentences more complex.

During the editing process, I always read the essay three times. When editing, you will want to focus on the following aspects: (5 min)

First, focus on the general themes.

  • Are all parts of a good essay in my essay?
  • Is this the message I wanted to say?
  • Did I cover all of the points of my plan?
  • Most important: did I answer the question of the essay?

Dissect each aspect of your essay. Ask questions such as:

  • Is my argument clear?
  • Did I include the necessary background information?
  • Do I present only one idea per paragraph in the body?
  • Do my supporting statements really support my reason?
  • Do the paragraphs fit together in a way that makes sense?
  • Does my conclusion summarize the key parts of my essay?
  • Did I introduce any new ideas in the conclusion?

When editing, you may have to do the following: add, subtract, combine, eliminate.


Cut up (an editing activity/ 15 minutes): This activity requires tape and scissors for each group. Give each group a different sentence set. Give them four slips of paper with a short sentence written on each. They must combine these sentences to form one long sentence or two longer sentences. Encourage them to come up with multiple variations.

Then tape onto the board and let them talk about what they did.


Peer editing (5-7 min): Using students as editors. This can help other students to see how their fellow students are writing, what styles they are using, ideas they are introducing, etc. Also, it helps the student to get feedback and find problems in their work before giving it to the teacher. It also creates a less threatening environment. Usually peer editors are looking for flaws in logic, etc., not grammar.

To do this, give each student a peer editing slip and have them attach it to their essay. Then gather the essays and put the students into groups, Tell them to write their comments on the slip of paper and add any grammatical corrections (be careful, because the grammar correction may not be accurate.)

Pass out Peer editing sheet, so that teachers can understand how this works.


Write an essay to answer the question, “Should Ukrainian schools work year-round, why or why not? Write a five paragraph essay to answer this question.” (20 minutes)


Any questions? Donna has documents for other types of writing as well.


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