Essay-writing Lesson Plan

By Matt Baker email   Updated 27 Nov 2012 | Go to index of all free lesson plans

Curriculum goal: Students will know how to express their thoughts in simple, clear sentences.

Lesson objective: Students will be able to write a 500 word essay.

Length: 2 class periods (50 minutes each)



1. Selecting a Topic

Here's how most students go about writing an essay (or speech): They start by flipping through a newspaper or scanning a library book. They eventually find an article that seems to be interesting and seems to have a good amount of information in it. They then decide to write their essay on that topic. Finally, they re-write the article into their own words (hopefully), add a fancy cover page, and pass it in.

THIS IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO WRITE AN ESSAY!

You should not research first and then choose your topic second based on what you are able to find and what seems easy. This is a backwards approach. You should always choose your topic first and then do your research second. You should choose something that interests you and something that you truly want to learn more about, not just something that is easy to find information on.

Also, just like you learned in Speech class, you should make sure to narrow your topic rather than selected something too general.

2. Research

Your research should not be based only on one source. You should use many sources and, if possible, many different types of sources. For example, you could use newspaper or magazine articles, books, encyclopedias, personal interviews, and the Internet. For this assignment you must have three different sources and at least two different types of sources (for example, you should use the Internet for at least one of your sources, but not for all three).

While doing your research, take notes. Write down the most important facts and don't forget to write down the names of your sources as well (for websites, this includes the full Internet address).

Since the Internet is probably the best source of information and the one that you will use the most, you need to be aware of how to do research online. The Internet has an enormous amount of information. However, not all the information available is equally "good". Knowing how to use the Internet is not as simple as knowing how to type something into Google. You also need to know the difference between a good website and a bad website (and by good, I mean "reputable" or "trustworthy"). Here's how to evaluate a website:

Signs of a good website: Signs of a bad website:
The author's name is given No author is listed
The author's name comes up many times when searching it on google Other articles by the same author cannot be found
The author is writing on behalf of an organization The page is somebody's personal website or blog
e.g. - www.geocities.com/user/~mbaker
You recognize the name of the organization or school
e.g. - Oxford University
The page is part of an online community such as YouTube or Facebook
The header (site name) at the top of the page matches with the URL
e.g. - www.nytimes.com & "New York Times"
The URL is long and seems to have nothing to do with the content of the page
The site is primarily for educational purposes The site is trying to sell you something
References (works cited) are provided at the bottom of the page No references are provided
A date is given and it is recent There is no date or the date more than 3 years old
The site is easy to navigate and has a pleasing design The site is organized poorly and/or has many spelling/grammar mistakes

Note: Following these rules will not guarantee that the website you are using is good but they will certainly help.

Final tip: Don't always start from a search engine (e.g. - Google). Sometimes it's better to start from a site that you know is reputable such as National Geographic or BBC News. One of the best website for general information is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is an online encyclopedia that anyone can add to or edit (according to certain rules) and is therefore usually fairly up-to-date and unbiased. It can also be used as a starting point to connect to other sites about the same topic (links and references are provided at the bottom of each page).

3. Organizing Your Essay

An essay is organized just like a speech. It has four main parts:

  1. Introduction (one paragraph, used to catch the attention of the reader)
  2. Thesis statement (one sentence at the end of the introduction, similar to an S.P.S., and designed to clearly state your topic).
  3. Body (several paragraphs in which you introduce the research you have found)
  4. Conclusion (one paragraph which summarizes the paper)

Each paragraph in the body should introduce only one main point. The first sentence of a paragraph is called the topic sentence. It clearly states the main idea of the paragraph. The other sentences are called supporting sentences. This is where you can provide the information found during your research.

Below is a sample essay. Note the placement of the thesis statement and how each paragraph introduces only one main idea.

Our True Best Friend

by Rohan Perera

"A dog is a man's best friend." This famous saying may be true for some people, but certainly not for all. For many people, a cat is their best friend. In fact, despite what most dog lovers would say, I would argue that cats actually make better housepets.

First of all, cats are less noisy. According to the organization Cats United, most cat breeds are quiet. Unlike dogs, cats do not bark or make other loud noises. Most cats don't even meow very often. They generally lead a quiet existence. For example, when your friends come to visit, a dog will bark and bark and you will have to spend time telling it to be quiet. A cat will not give you this problem.

Secondly, cats are cleaner. Whereas dogs often get dirty and require baths, cats clean themselves. According to Felicia Ames, author of A Manual of Cat Care, "bathing a cat is an emergency measure only." Also, whereas dogs are famous for jumping on you with dirty paws or drooling all over you, cats never do such things. They generally smell much nicer and are therefore a pleasure to hold on your lap.

Lastly, one of the most attractive features of cats as housepets is that they are much easier to take care of. For example, cats do not have to be walked. They get plenty of exercise in the house as they play. Also, when you go away for a few days, you can leave your cat alone without any worries. This is certainly not true of dogs. Most importantly though, cats can be easily trained to put their waste in a litter box. And, according to Wikipedia, you can even train a cat to use a human toilet!

Cats are quieter, cleaner, and easier to take care of than dogs. Therefore, it seems fair to say that they make better housepets than dogs. When it comes to who is the true best friend for humans, the answer most certainly is: cats.

4. Formatting Your Essay

Make sure you follow these guidelines when formatting your essay:

At the end of your essay, you should also have a Works Cited section which lists the sources that you have used. Check with your teacher regarding whether or not you should use the MLA, APA, or some other format. If no set format is required, be sure to include at least the author, title, and date. Here are some examples of how to format your works cited:

   Brazier, C. "Meat's too expensive." New Internationalist. Dec. 2008.
   Corliss, R. "Should we all be vegetarians?" Accessed 4 April, 2009.
        http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020715/story.html
   Havala, S. Being Vegetarian for Dummies. 2001.
   "Vegetarianism." Wikipedia. Accessed 4 April, 2009.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism


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