My fourth grade son recently had to write a five paragraph essay for the first time. The essay had to include an introductory paragraph and three body paragraphs. The final paragraph needed to have a conclusion that summed up what he discussed in the essay. In solidarity, I decided to challenge myself to do the same assignment and share it with him. If this is your child’s first time writing an essay, let them choose a topic that they love and already know a lot about.
As I explained to my nine year old, so much of writing happens in your head before you grab a pencil or sit down at your keyboard. What do you want to say? In what order will you write it? It might be a good idea to start with a brief outline of what each paragraph will cover. When working with your kiddo it is important to give them plenty of time for this brainstorming part, if they need it.
Once the outline is finished, have them begin writing their first draft of the essay. Explain that first drafts can be bad and can be fixed later. Getting their thoughts down on the page as they come will help prevent early onset writer’s block. Explain how to use transition words and phrases like first, next and finally. Also, help them think about what details they can add to their essay.
Next, explain the importance of editing what they have written. Are there misspellings? Is the grammar on point? At this age, reminding about proper capitalization and punctuation is important. Have them also review the order of their paragraphs to see if anything could be rearranged or deleted.
Finally, congratulate your child on their hard work. Writing takes a lot of mental fortitude, even for adults. If they need you to edit their work, mark the mistakes and let them fix them themselves. For their next essay challenge, remind them of the steps: outline, write and edit. If they hate writing, comfort them by letting them know that with practice their writing will improve and the words will eventually begin to flow more easily.
Include a topic sentence for each paragraph that will summarize what you will explain in the next sentences. Outlining with a word or a sentence for what you will cover in each paragraph beforehand may help.
These paragraphs are good places to cite other sources or quote other articles. Don’t plagiarize and make sure you include your attribution by providing a link and or author name, and publication.
Melissa is a freelance writer and the author of three novels , a children's picture book and co-author of How to Make a Living as a Writer. She’s co-founder and writer for Pen & Parent. In addition, she’s been published online at The Pennyhoarder, Today Parenting Community, Rage Against the Minivan, Momastery, Yahoo Voices, and Red Tricycle.
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