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7 Steps to Teaching Essays

Ever wonder what the best method is for teaching essay writing? Tired of the stares of dread on your students’ faces when you assign an essay? In this post, I’ll explain my 7 step method so you can teach essay writing in a simple and effective way! These are seven basic items you don’t want to miss when covering the essay.


Before I dive into the steps, be sure you have access to my free printables library. January’s printables will include a free essay outline worksheet you can hand out to your students next term.


Actually, this month’s printables have a handy worksheet on 9 Essay Topics Your Students Will Love. It’s waiting for you in the free library! If you missed my post on my favourite essay topics, it’s here.

Free Printables Library

 7 Steps To Teaching Essay Writing


1.  What Is An Essay?: Understanding Essay Types

So, the first question you should ask your students is What is an essay?  They will probably laugh and wonder if it’s a rhetorical question. Seriously, though, ask them!

  • An essay is a literary genre that philosopher Michel de Montaigne popularized in the Renaissance era by writing a book of his thoughts on various topics
  • It’s important that your students understand the different types of essays they could be assigned, so they know how to focus their response. Not all essays are about arguing!

Here are some common types:

  • Descriptive/Narrative – analyze a concept based on a personal narrative
  • Persuasive –  take a position and defend it
  • Expository – explain how to do something
  • Literary responses –  examine a piece of literature, usually based on a theme


501 Writing Prompts is one of my favourite resources. It’s split by type of essay, so you can easily find great writing prompts to assign your students! 9 of my favourite essay topics (some of which are inspired by this book) are ready for you to download in the printables library!


2.  Understanding ArgumentationDebate

Essays are fun! Who doesn’t like to argue and convince others of their point, right? While I’ve just noted above that not all essays are about arguing, they do all present a point of view.

Before writing an essay, students should understand the following concepts:

  • Point of View  – the writer or speaker’s perspective on an issue
  • Deductive Reasoning – starts with a point of view and sets out to prove it using evidence (wraps up in a conclusion)
  • Inductive Reasoning – starts with the facts/evidence and develops a point of view (comes to a conclusion). See Kaplan University’s post about deductive vs inductive reasoning here.


3.   Understanding Opposing Points of View 

When teaching essay writing, have your students make a table with opposing points of view (POV) on the topic their essay addresses.  Be sure they don’t just use two points of view; every issue has more than two sides!

They can list them very simply, and then decide on their point of view, like this:

  • Topic/Issue: __________________________________________________________________
  • A: __________________________________________________________________
  • B:__________________________________________________________________
  • C: __________________________________________________________________
  • D: __________________________________________________________________
  • E: __________________________________________________________________
  • ME: __________________________________________________________________



4.  What is A Thesis Statement? 

Be sure your students know this!  Actually, a thesis statement is a 1 or 2 sentence statement, usually towards the end of the introductory paragraph. It has three functions:

  • STATES THE PURPOSE OF THE ESSAY   –  What is my point/purpose?
  • PROVIDES DIRECTION – How am I going to prove my point/investigate?

The last one seems obvious, I know! In fact, many students go off topic, so advise them to be careful!



5.  Writing An Essay Outline

So, this is one of my favourite topics to teach. I could write a whole post on this (and I probably will!) For now, though, make sure your students have a basic set up for an outline.

  • INTRODUCTION with a hook to grab the readers’ interest!  It should move from a more general (not too general!) topic to a specific statement


  • THESIS STATEMENT – You guessed it! That statement is the thesis statement. It should be very clearly defined so readers understand the purpose of your discussion


  • BODY PARAGRAPHS – These need to be well-organized with introductory sentences, supporting details, examples and transition sentences leading to the next idea.


  • CONCLUSION – Restate your thesis (or come to a conclusion in a deductive essay). Express final thoughts.

I’m preparing a beautiful outlining worksheet for you to print off and hand out to your students the next time you assign an essay. I would strongly suggest assigning the essay outline for marks at least for the first essay of the year.

Be sure you’re signed up for my printables library and I’ll let you know when the worksheet is ready!


6. Writing A First Draft

So, the main point here is that there is always more than one draft. You’d be suprised how many students think they can hand in an unedited essay!

A first draft should follow the outline in Step #5.   Encourage your students to add more ideas or take some out of the outline as they write. An outline is a planning document and can be changed as their ideas develop!


7. Editing Essays

Here are a few important revisions and edits to discuss with your class. I’ll be writing a more detailed post on this list soon!

  • Grammatical errors
  • Organization –  Have you followed the outline?
  • Flow –  Does each idea follow logically to the next? Is the argument clear?
  • Evidence – Are ideas supported by clear evidence?
  • Word usage errors –  Is vocabulary used appropriately? Is vocabulary varied?
  • Citations – Are all sources properly cited and are quotes properly referenced? Is the correct citation style used?


Start with this list and see how your students do!


Well, I hope these 7 steps are helpful!  I’m considering teaching more details on each step in my upcoming course for English teachers and tutors. Is teaching essay writing a topic you’d like to learn more about? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Best Essay Writing Books


Did you scroll to the bottom?  Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

Here are my favourite teaching essay writing resources:  (Click the appropriate (US or UK/Europe) link below the image to  grab your copy!)

501 Writing Prompts


501 Writing Prompts                                      A Writer’s Reference                                                Glossary of LIterary Terms

501 Writing Prompts (UK/Europe)                 A Writer’s Reference (UK/Europe)                           Glossary of LIterary Terms (UK/Europe)


Mastering Logical Fallacies                                         Perfect Phrases                                                    Kaplan SAT Guide

Mastering Logical Fallacies (UK/Europe)                   Perfect Phrases (UK/Europe)                                Kaplan SAT Guide (UK/Europe)

Don’t forget to sign up below this post to access the free printables library, if you haven’t already.

I’ll be in touch soon with your free essay outline worksheet and more printables in January.


Happy Teaching!


P.S.  Photography lovers, I took the main photo for today’s post at the Dublin Castle in Ireland in 2013.

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