13 Ways of Teaching Essay Writing

  1. Encourage free writing to begin with. Tell students not to worry what they write: just write what they know to begin with. The important thing is to get into the practice of writing.
  2. You only know the beginning when you know the end. that they probably change the introduction anyway once they have finished the essays because most experienced writers know their beginning when they’ve written their end.
  3. Read, read, read! Encourage students to read a number of essays over the course so they are familiar with the style of the essay.
  4. Model.Model what effective essays look like by encouraging students to read through the essays in groups and pick out what works and what does not.
  5. Walking talking essay writing. Either you or a good student could show on a podcast, video or in front of the students live (if you’re brave) what you’re thinking as you are writing various parts of the essay such as the introduction.
  6. Phrase and word banks. Encourage them to keep a word bank of useful phrases and vocabulary.
  7. Provide sentence starters. SEND and EAL students in particular may need sentence starters to get them writing.
  8. Stress the purpose of the essay. Essays are ways of thinking about topics. Stress the importance of students showing that they have found out something through the process of writing the essay.
  9. Encourage reflection during the essay writing. Encourage students to reflect upon the strategies and processes that are working for them as they write the essay.
  10. Chunking. Encourage students to “chunk” off time when they do nothing but write, or read, or discuss, breaking up the essay writing process in manageable chunks.
  11. Be enthusiastic about the topic. Make your passion for the topic infectious; show that you’re interested in the essay.
  12. Mix up the learning: individual, pair work, group work, jigsawing. Encourage students to work with different people and find strategies that help them work by themselves.
  13. Discourage multi-tasking. Don’t allow students to listen to music as they work as there is a lot of evidence that this does not help them get on with the work.

What do you think of these pieces of advice? Think about them critically, and encourage your students to do so. For example, my worry with this first slide is that if students copy the phrases blindly they may well write very ‘generic’ sounding essays. 


This slide is not specifically aimed at writing English essays but I thought it was useful.


What do you think of the advice here?



About @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing (fgipublishing.com) which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network, www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, www.francisgilbert.co.uk. He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.
This entry was posted in 2 Promote Good Progress, 5 Meet student needs, Essay writing, Teaching Standards, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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