I was fortunate to teach my senior high school class of young high school boys how to write an Expository Essay. Since a couple of the boys were sick, I did a Facebook live so that those students could watch it at home and go through their book as I taught. So… I thought I would share it on here and give you some essay teaching tips for young high school students.

Watch the video here!



1. If you are new to teaching writing, I highly recommend starting with essay writing.

The range of difficulty and “fun” in essays can’t be beat. An essay can be fun (three reasons someone is a good super hero), hobby related (three best pies to make for holidays), personal (your three favorite vacation foods), straightforward (three colors of a rainbow), more formal (three quotations), or research-based (three reasons smoking should be banned in public buildings). It requires fewer advanced skills than story writing or research report writing.


Check out a two week sample from one of my intermediate essay books, Meaningful Composition 6 II.


2. If your high schooler has never written five paragraph essays before, I recommend that you start out with what we call our three topics and three paragraphs for the body (P’soB).

This is a simplified way of teaching students how to write multiple paragraphs when they are not used to it. In this approach, the student writes about three different things, such as three different favorite foods or three different beaches or three favorite novels etc. The beauty of this approach is that a student does not have to think about so much information for three paragraphs. He can simply plan out information for one paragraph of 6 to 8 sentences about one topic. He moves onto the next paragraph, and it is about a completely different topic. We use this method extensively in our junior high writing books to teach students how to move into multi-paragraph writing painlessly.


Check out a two-week sample from my upper level high school essay book, Meaningful Composition 10:I.


3. Always have the student outline before he writes.

My books provide outlining spaces, topic of paragraph lines, link sentence lines, etc., to ensure that the student has all of the elements that are needed in an outline. Even without these, however, you can still ensure a complete paragraph by insisting that a student outline his paragraph thoroughly before he writes.


4. Do not expect a student to include too many unusual or “in-progress skills” and one essay.

For example, rather than saying research for this essay, you can simply say “put one piece of research information in each paragraph” rather than expecting a student to include unlimited quotations. If he is still in the quotation process, have him simply add one quotation and be sure that, that week’s lesson includes quotation writing as a skill building lesson.


Don’t assign a project with a formal tone if he doesn’t know the difference between first person, second person, and third person. Don’t expect research based persuasive quotations, if he hasn’t learned how to research thoroughly or include quotations. In every project, a student should know how to do the skills that are expected of him in that type of writing.



(Have you gotten your free Write On downloadable book yet? There is one freebie for each level: Beginning Elementary, Upper Elementary, Junior High, Beginning High School, and Upper High School.)


5. Don’t make the essay writing process too open ended.

One of the reasons why students have so much trouble in writing is because we simply give them writing topics. I know because when I first began writing curriculum in language arts and composition, I had a bookshelf full of writing prompts or writing idea books. We have to understand the difference between telling a student to write something and teaching a student how to write that. We need to be sure that he understands the parameters–how many paragraphs, what each paragraph should contain, whether he is doing an opening or closing, whether the opening or closing had to be a specific style, what person he’s writing in, the tone of the paper, and much more. Writing idea books and writing prompts do not give a student the tools needed to learn how to write.


P.S. What are your essay-teaching problems? I would love to help you solve them by writing a blog post about that topic!

Love and hope,

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