For older children writing isn’t simply a requirement for the classroom, it might be a ticket to higher education. Being able to write well in many different styles is essential to completing various applications and tests as your child progresses in school. Some of these assignments are essays while others are the more creative narrative styles that leave many children wondering what in the world to write about.
Improving the Essay
Older children spend a large portion of their secondary school career writing essays. This is good practice, of course, for the University where they will write even more essays. Being able to write a solid essay is a skill that will help your child in almost every level of her education.
In most cases, an essay should have a structure that is easy to follow. For the majority of parents, this was the classic five paragraph essay they learned in school. The five paragraph essay still works today, but your will want t be sure her essay doesn’t become stiff when fitted into such a formal style.
The structure of an essay should be one that allows a main point to be organized into subcategories and then leave room for supporting details. This might be done using an opening paragraph and then three body paragraphs followed by a close, or you might work with your topic to find a more applicable structure that is a bit livelier for the reader. For example, an essay might start with a conclusion followed by supporting details. Those details build to main points which brings you back to the original topic. Whatever structure your child decides it right, it should be easy to organize and even easier to read.
In the world of journalism, KISS stands for, “Keep it Simple Stupid.” In an essay, your child’s goal will be to make a central point stand out along with supporting statements and details – no matter how she’s chosen to organize the elements. To make this work most effectively, your child should learn to trim the fat while she writes. Include as many supporting details as is necessary to prove the point and show a deep knowledge of the topic, but when details become repetitive or are included simply because they were pulled out during a research project but have little to do with the topic at hand, the essay becomes cluttered.
If it helps, which is likely, create an outline or list of facts and supporting details you have for the essay at hand. Organize those details into categories of support and if something is a poor fit, leave it out or modify how that portion of the research is being used so that there is a place for that element. If a detail just doesn’t fit, don’t force it into the paper. This makes it seem cluttered and is frustrated for a reader who frankly doesn’t care about much unrelated to the topic at hand.
An essay should be rather formal, but it needn’t be stiff at the same time. You can write a formal, organized essay with a bit of flair and creativity. When you pour your personality into a paper or essay, it comes through the writing as voice. This voice makes your material interesting to read and keeps the reader engaged. It’s hard to teach voice, but there are terrific examples of solid voice available in many newspaper columns and in the works of favorite authors.
Finally, be sure you remind your child to close the essay properly. The correct ending to an essay is a statement of fact regarding the topic of the essay, essentially repeating your topic sentence. This is generally followed by a thought-provoking comment on behalf of the writer seeking hypothetical answers and discussion points.
What this looks like in action can vary, but an example might be, “Thus, the lifecycle of the common house fly is far shorter than many think, but during that life much damage can be done. Now one must only wonder – might there have been evidence of a fly in my soup this evening?”