Teaching ESL Students How to Write an Essay

Teaching ESL Students How to Write an Essay
Explain to your students that writing an introductory paragraph is dependent on how well they:
Gain the reader's interest by using one of several common methods of introduction
Present the thesis statement. The thesis statement expresses the central point of an essay, like a topic sentence expresses the main idea of a paragraph.
By teaching students four different types of topic introduction, you are providing a choice for them in ways to begin their essay.

Here are a few options you can offer your students:

Telling a brief story: students should write no more than a few sentences to introduce the topic and the thesis statement.
Asking one or more questions: Students should use this approach if they intend to answer their own questions later on in the supporting paragraphs.
Shifting to the opposite: This seems like an easy approach for many adults learners, but using an opposite situation to introduce a thesis statement is not so easy.
Going from the broad to the narrow: Generalizations can get a reader's attention and can also introduce the general topic.

Middle Paragraphs
The most important thing for ESL learners to learn about middle or supporting paragraphs of an essay is that each supporting paragraph should have its own topic sentence stating the point to be developed in that paragraph.

Also teach linking words in transitional sentences such as: first, another, also, in addition, and finally, in order to show the relationship between ideas. Provide paragraphs with interesting topics which have clear topic sentences for each of the three or four supporting paragraphs.

Concluding Paragraphs

Teach the importance of summarizing the essay by briefly restating the thesis and in some cases, the main supporting points. Effective concluding paragraphs also focus on a closing thought which brings the essay to a smooth end. One way to accomplish this is to provide a sample concluding paragraph and ask learners to circle the sentences that best express the thesis statement.

Another approach is to ask students to choose a summarizing thesis statement from a list of four alternatives. ESL students should learn that sometimes there may be more than one closing thought.

Teaching academic writing is an important skill that even native English speakers need help with. But by providing practice, your students will acquire this important writing skill, thus allowing them to express themselves efficiently.

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