If peace and confidence did not come to your mind then I hope to change that by the end of this article. We have already covered the basics of teaching teens to write in Teaching Teens to Write and writing paragraphs and reports in Teaching Teens to Write Paragraphs and Reports. Now, it's onto essays.
Essays bring almost as much fear to students and their parents as research papers do. But essays are actually more fun to write than reports because while reports are factual, essays allow students to share both facts and feelings. The essay writer is able to express more of himself in his paper.
An essay is a short work of non-fiction that presents the author's view on a single topic. A good essay has a "grabber" opening paragraph, a body (with as many paragraphs as are needed to communicate effectively about the topic, and an effective closing paragraph.
As I have mentioned in the other writing articles, the more time you spending in intellectual discussion with your teen, the better prepared your teen will be to communicate on paper. This is especially true of essay writing.
Many teens have never read a good essay, so before you ask him to write his own essay, give him some good essays to read. Newspaper editorial pages are a good place to find examples, especially of persuasive essays. Here are some of my favorite collections of essays: Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers, God in Dock by CS Lewis, and The Complete Essays of Mark Twain. You can also find GK Chesterton's essays on-line at GK Chesterton's Works on the Web. Dive into these essays with your teenager. Read some aloud together and talk about what makes these essays so good. You also might want to let your son or daughter read older siblings essays or your old essays from college.
Topic & Audience
A good essay makes a strong clear point about something the writer of the essay is passionate about (introduction), backs it up with facts (body of the paper), and concludes by reaffirming the strong point made at the beginning (conclusion). Essays can be written in first-person or third-person, but formal essays should be written in third-person. Be sure to stay consistent.
A thesis statement is the foundation of a good essay. It is mentioned in the introduction, proven in the body of the essay, and reaffirmed in the conclusion. Spend time explaining to your teen how to write a thesis statement. (A thesis statement is a strong statement that can be proven or disproven.) If he is having problems coming up with one, then have him ask and answer various questions about his topic. One set of questions and answers should be able to be turned into a hypothesis. The hypothesis will be a guide for your paper, so make sure that it is clear and strong. The body of the paper will "prove" the hypothesis of the essay.
If possible, children should write essays about things they are passionate about, but that is not always possible. Give your teen choices when writing essays, so that she can choose what most appeals to her. It might be helpful to read some essays, articles, or editorials on the topic your teen will write about--as long as she is not tempted to copy the words and make them her own! (Plagiarism!)
The opening paragraph should grab the reader's attention, so help your son or daughter craft that first paragraph until it is powerful! The body of the essay should be as long as it needs to be to communicate what is on your teenager's heart and prove her thesis statement. Don't be rigid about number of paragraphs. The thesis statement should guide the writing here. Be careful of run-ons or fragments here and make sure that sentences flow naturally into the next. After reading the body of the essay aloud to her, ask your teen, "Does this essay say what you want it to say? Does it prove your thesis statement?" The discussion that follows will help her rewrite her essay to make to make it more clear, concise, and concrete.
The conclusion of an essay is the final attempt the writer makes to drive his point home. Don't just rewrite the introductory paragraph, summarize the thesis statement and main points briefly and then add a twist to make the reader stop and say, "Oh, I never thought of it quite that way!" Work on the final paragraph with your child, giving your input as needed.
Finally, "publish" your teenager's essay. It can be posted on their facebook or a blog. Or it could be mailed to Grandma. Maybe he could read it aloud at the dinner table. Whatever method you choose, let others read what he has so carefully chosen to write!
Until next time, continue to homeschool high school for the glory of God!
Merey (Meredith Ludwig Curtis)