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How To Write An Essay Outline

Do you know the all-too-familiar sound of groaning when you announce that you’re about to assign an essay? The one that undoubtedly rings throughout the class no matter how excited your tone of voice is?

I hear you!

Well, here I am, essay-lover to essay teacher to share my experience, change your students’ minds and help you teach how to write an essay.

Why I Love Essays

I love the expressions on my students’ faces when I proclaim my love for essay writing.

Oh no, they’re thinking, what is wrong with her? How could you love such a chore? Well, I proceed by giving them my reasons. Essays are the perfect way to:

  • Express your opinion –  Who doesn’t love to argue and prove their point, right?
  • Debate current issues –  You’re sure to find at least one hot-topic your students love.
  • Write beautiful language – Narrative and descriptive essays can bring out your creative side
  • Respond to literature – Literary responses can help you understand literature and apply it to your own life

Not sure what essays to assign your students? Head over to the free printables library to grab my worksheet on 9 Essays Your Students Will Love (and read this post on it, too)


Free Printables Library


Why Essay Writing Is Difficult

So, what makes essay writing so difficult for students? Here are the top few reasons I’ve heard:

  • I don’t know how to plan an essay/where to start
  • How can I argue my point well?
  • How do I know if my point is convincing?

Today’s post focuses on planning, but for more tips, be sure to check out my post on 7 Steps To Teaching Essay Writing and download the handy checklist in my printables library.


The Essay OutlineHow To Write An Essay Outline

Writing an essay outline is absolutely key!! Planning is vital and will help your essays shine.  Here are a few steps (for a basic essay) that you can teach your students:


  • Lead – An interesting start to your paper is a must! Without this, your readers (and markers!) will become disinterested. Many teachers suggest the “funnel” method, going from broad to more detailed towards the thesis statement, which I highly recommend (more details on my free worksheet!)


  • Discussion of the Issue –  Add what some people would say, and what other arguments are, that would be used against you.


  • Thesis Statement – This is the most important sentence (or two) of your paper. It is sometimes preceded by a Theme Statement which explains the general focus of your paper. The thesis statement includes:
    • Your Purpose – why are you writing this essay? To prove what point?
    • Your Direction – how are you going to prove your argument?
    • Answers the question!


Body Paragraphs

In the most basic form of the essay, this consists of 3 main points. Depending on the required length, or the amount of information you have collected through research, this could vary from 2 to  8 paragraphs.

                                            Important note: Every body paragraph must be well-tied to your thesis statement!

Check out my funnel analogy, which  I use to explain this format well by downloading the handout in the January 2017 Printables Package.



Restate your thesis statement in different words. This serves to leave the reader with your main point again – why, how, and what you are writing for an argument. Leave them with a final thought that keeps them thinking!

You have access to the printables library so you can grab the student handout with additional details and tips, right? If not, sign up at the end of this post or head on over to the free printables library to get access now!


Have you tried using essay outlines in your English class? How do you find students respond? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below this post.

Happy Teaching!




P.S.  Photography lovers, I took the photo for the main image in today’s post (an ancient writing tablet), in Girona, Catalunya in 2015 at the Museum of Jewish History.

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