How To Write an Essay

Many young learners are required to write essays in English. While most of these students also write essays for other courses in their native language, they often feel hesitant when writing essays in English. This series of four lessons is designed to help students become familiar with writing an essay in English. The first lesson is designed to give students an overview of basic essay writing style. The final three lessons focus on developing skills that are used when analyzing texts as the basis of their essays.

Aim: Learning basic essay structure for young learners to use for text analysis

Activity: Overview of basic essay structure presentation with students working together to develop an essay outline

Level: Young Learners - upper intermediate


  • Choose a short story that your class is very familiar with, and about which they will surely have strong opinions.
  • In a brainstorming session, ask students the following questions (you may want to have the students work on these questions in small groups and then review their answers as a class):
    • Who are the main characters of the story?
    • What are the main events of the story?
    • What roles do the main characters play in the main events of the story?
    • Is there a moral to the story? If yes, what do you think it is?
    • What did you learn from the story?
  • Make a list of the most commonly held opinions and answers relating to the story.
  • Give students the short outline to writing an essay. Have them read through the outline and answer any questions they may have.
  • Ask students to break up into small groups and, using the information from the brainstorming session, fill in the outline questionnaire.
  • Circulate around the class helping the groups come up with appropriate answers to the outline.
  • Make sure that each student has a copy of the work they produce as this outline will be used as the base of an essay in a future lesson.
An Introduction to Writing an Essay
  1. Select the topic of your essay.
  2. Choose the central idea, or thesis, of your essay. For example:

    George Orwell's Animal Farm provides a fascinating allegory of life in a totalitarian society.

  3. Outline your essay into introductory, body and summary paragraphs.
  4. The introductory paragraph begins with an interesting sentence. For example:

    The idyllic setting of life on the farm provides little clue of the harsh realities George Orwell portrays in Animal Farm.

  5. After this first sentence, add your thesis statement from above.
  6. Use one sentence to introduce every body paragraph to follow. For example:

    Orwell's choice of pigs as the leaders of the farm can hardly be incidental.

  7. Finish the introductory paragraph with a short summary or goal statement. For example:

    George Orwell's Animal Farm fascinates the reader through its extreme contrast between the idyllic and brutally realistic.

  8. In each of the body paragraphs (usually two or three) the ideas first presented in the introductory paragraph are developed.
  9. Develop your body paragraphs by giving detailed information and examples. For example:

    The struggle between the two leading pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, with its consequences felt by the population of the farm clearly illustrates how totalitarian leaders will put their own confrontations ahead of the population they are supposedly leading.

  10. Body paragraphs should develop the central idea and finish with a summary of that idea. There should be at least two examples or facts in each body paragraph to support the central idea.
  11. The summary paragraph summarizes your essay and is often a reverse of the of the introductory paragraph.
  12. Begin the summary paragraph by quickly restating the principal ideas of your body paragraphs. For example:

    Through the use of symbolism in the portrayal of characters, setting and style, George Orwell's Animal Farm delivers a harsh criticism of totalitarian society.

  13. The penultimate sentence should restate your basic thesis of the essay. For example:

    Animal Farm is a deceivingly simple allegory presenting totalitarian society in all its grimmest aspects.

  14. Your final statement can be a future prediction based on what you have shown in the essay. For example:

    Considering the vast changes in the global political structure of the last twenty years, one can only hope that mankind has learned the lessons so elegantly told in George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Outline Questionnaire
  • This essay is about:
  • The essay is introduced by the following interesting statement:
  • This essay is introduced with the following idea:
  • The essay will illustrate the above idea by showing that:
    • (main point of paragraph 1)
      • This is shown by:

    • (main point of paragraph 2)
      • This is shown by:

    • (main point of paragraph 3)
      • This is shown by:

  • To summarize, this essay has shown that:
  • The lessons that can be learned are:

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