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Writing Essays

Write an Essay
120 mins
Lesson Aim
Students will:

Learn the stucture and qualities of a good essay

Practice planning and writing an essay containing at least three paragraphs
Review a lexical set pertaining to illnesses.

Note. This lesson assumes students are already familiar with paragraph writing (see
relevant lessons in Elementary and Lower Intermediate Courses).
45 min
You can conduct the instructional aspects of this lesson in Bahasa Malaysia, but where
essay content is being developed English must be used. This lesson has been pre-prepared
on Microsoft Powerpoint for delivery. Handouts can also be printed out off the
presentation. Deliver the instruction by trying to get students to come up with the
information use questions. You will need to hand out the model essay early in the
Reference: chapter 8, The Essay, in Writing Academic English, 3rd edition, Alice
Oshima & Ann Hogue, Longman, NY: 1991.
What is an essay? An essay is a piece of writing several paragraphs long
(instead of just one or two paragraphs). It is written about one topic, just as a
paragraph is. However, the topic of an essay is too complex to discuss in only
one paragraph. Therefore, you must divide the topic into several paragraphs, one
for each major point. Then you must tie all of the separate paragraphs together
by adding an introduction and a conclusion.


How long is an essay? An essay can consist of three to any number of

paragraphs, so long as it develops one main idea clearly, with one major point
per paragraph.
You already know how to write good paragraphs. In this lesson you will learn how
to combine paragraphs and expand paragraphs to build essays. Lets quickly
review what you know about writing paragraphs:
What are the components of a paragraph?
Topic Sentence
Supporting sentences
Concluding sentence
What are the qualities of a good paragraph?
An essay follows the same pattern.
(Hand out the model essay about aggressive motorists.) Look at this model of an
essay. Read it carefully two or three times, and try to analyse its structure. (Give
students time to read.) (Dont spend too much time explaining vocab.)
Three parts
An essay has three major parts to its structure:

Introductory paragraph

Identify these parts in the model essay. How many paragraphs comprise the
body? [4]
Introductory paragraph
An introductory paragraph has four purposes:
1. To introduce the topic of the essay;
2. To give a general background of the topic;
3. To indicate the overall plan of the essay; and
4. To arouse the readers interest in the topic.
General Statements in the Introduction


The first sentence should be a very general comment about the topic. Each of
the following sentences should become more specific than the previous one.
They should lead to a thesis statement.
Thesis statement in the Introduction
The thesis statement is the most important sentence in the introduction. It:
States the main topic
Often lists the subdivisions of the topic or the subtopics
May indicate the method of organisation* of the entire essay
Is usually the last sentence in the introduction
*Organisation of the essay might be chronological or in order of importance.
Look at the introductory paragraph in the model essay.
What is the thesis statement? [Aggressive motorists react foolishly toward others
in several dangerous ways.]
Does it state the main topic [yes], list the subdivisions of the topic or the
subtopics [says several dangerous ways but they are not specified], indicate
the method of organisation of the entire essay [yes it hints it will list the
dangerous ways]?
Is it the last sentence in the introduction? [Yes]
Do the general statements gradually become more specific, and lead into the
thesis statement? [yes]
Essay Body
You need to plan the outline of an essay before you write it. Your plan is the way
to organise your thoughts and outline the body of your essay. Each subtopic
becomes one paragraph.
Identify the subtopics in the model essay.
[1. One way an angry motorist may react is to cut off another driver.
2. Another reaction of an aggressive motorist is to tailgate the other vehicle.
3. In addition to cutting off and tailgating other vehicles, aggressive drivers often
use rude language or gestures to show their anger.
4. Although traffic police have warned motorists against aggressive driving, the
number who act out their angry impulses has not declined.]
Transition signals
You need to use transition signals to show the links between paragraphs. You
can do this by adding a transition signal to the topic sentence of the next
paragraph. The transition signal can be a single word, a phrase or a clause that
repeats or summarises the main idea in the preceding paragraph.
Look at the model essay. Circle the transition signals.
[1. One way an angry motorist may react is to cut off another driver.
2. Another reaction of an aggressive motorist is to tailgate the other vehicle.
3. In addition to cutting off and tailgating other vehicles, aggressive drivers
often use rude language or gestures to show their anger.

4. Although traffic police have warned motorists against aggressive

driving, the number who act out their angry impulses has not declined.
5. To conclude,]
Essay Conclusion
The concluding paragraph in an essay is the last paragraph. Start with a
conclusion transition signal, eg. In conclusion, In summary, In short, To
conclude, All in all. Then write a summary of the main points discussed in the
body or you could rewrite the thesis statement but in different words. Then you
add your final comments on the subject. It should be a strong, effective message
the reader will remember.
Look at the model essays conclusion.
What is the transition signal? . [To conclude,]
Does it summarise the main points or restate the thesis? [restates thesis in
different words]
Does it leave a strong, effective message? [strong of life & death importance!]
Writing and revising an essay
The process of writing an essay is much like what you already know for writing a
paragraph. First you brainstorm ideas, then you organise the ideas into an outline
and then you start the cycle of writing and editing. So you should write two rough
drafts before you come up with a final copy. You revise your first draft for
organisation and content. You revise your second written draft for sentence
structure, grammar, mechanics and vocabulary. All of this may be easier if you
are working on a word processor rather than handwriting, but its personal
preference. Remember every correction and rewriting is an improvement to your
How to get started? Many people find they work best by writing the body first
before writing the introduction.
Three qualities of a good essay
Besides the three structural parts of an essay, a good essay contains three

meaningful language use

coherence and cohesion

communicative effectiveness

Language Use
At this (upper intermediate) level you should have control of simple English
constructions but you are not expected to be error-free when you use longer,
more complex sentences. You simply need to be able to use written English to
convey meaning. At higher levels you would have a wider range of vocabulary

and would make fewer errors in use of tenses, verbs (agreement with subject),
pronouns, prepositions, article, word order and word choice.
Coherence & Cohesion
This means that your essay is easy to read and understand because:

your body paragraphs are in some kind of logical order

your paragraphs are connected by the use of appropriate transition signals

At this level your essay should be able to communicate a few main ideas in an
organised way.
Communicative Effectiveness
Your writing needs to address itself to the purpose. If it achieves its aim of
communicating some thoughts then it has been effective. Things that detract
from communicative effectiveness are lack of cohesion, excessive grammatical
errors, lack of vocabulary and undeveloped ideas.
A well-written essay contains three structural parts and three qualities:

an introductory paragraph
a body
a conclusion
meaningful language use
coherence/cohesion and
communicative effectiveness

In the second part of this lesson you will now practice these elements.
Distribute the student handout sheets.
15 min
Allow students to glance over the article on the student handout but dont spend a lot of
time going through the article because it is just an example of writing on the same topic.
This is not a reading exercise and the article is not necessarily an example of an excellent
essay as such. Pick out some useful vocab and expressions. For example, blamed on, get

in shape, physical fitness, unfit, combat readiness. Tell them to imagine they are all
military journalists who must come up with articles about the health of MAF members.
Ask students to suggest any common or new medical problems people are suffering in the
MAF (for example, post traumatic stress, heat stroke, fungal infection, acne, red eyes).
Chose one of the problems students suggested as the topic.
Brainstorm the topic with the class to show how to get started on writing an essay about
the topic. (It does not have to be true! Use some imagination!) Write them up on the
board, then as main points emerge, organize the words into sections. For example:
symptoms: red eyes, itchy, irritated, sore, stinging, dry
how to treat symptoms: eye drops, rest
why? causes? work-related: exhaust fumes, ventilation, long hours; lifestyle-related: TV
& video games, late nights
how to fix cause? fix tank seals and ventilation, work shorter shifts, control social life, get
more sleep
What MAF is doing/will do about it: giving eye drops to people currently suffering &
will prevent future instances by: fixing tanks, working shifts no longer than 8hrs, putting
10pm curfew on TV & computer/video games on base
Give your article a catchy title. (Tank commanders seeing red)
Remember to include author details.(By LT Aziz, 3 Bde)
What is the nature of the problem? (Blood-shot eyes)
What may have caused it? (Exhaust leaking into tank, poor ventilation, long hours of
duty, watching TV and playing video games too much in leisure time)
What is the MAF doing about it? (Checking ventilation, banning video games on base)
Suggest they write at least one paragraph on each point (Intro Para : identify the problem,
outline the essay; Para 2: suggest the cause(s), Para 3: conclusion - restate the problem &
state how to overcome the problem).
40 min (if students require more time use extra allocation with scheduled Vocab Test D
Students could do this exercise on wordprocessing or desktop publishing software.
Depending on the confidence of your students you should decide whether they work in
pairs, small groups or as a whole class to wite the essay.

(If your students are ready to work independently rather than having a group solution
each stdent could write an essay on a different mediacl problem and then combine all
their articles all in a published journal about medical issues in the MAF (- give it a title
eg. Attention: Good Health). This may give them more motivation to write accurately and
chose interesting topics. You could then distribute copies of the finished journal to all
students for reading at their pleasure. Also diplay a copy alongside the supplementary
reading texts.)
20 min
Have pairs or groups of students exchange their essays/articles for peer correction. Allow
one or two students to read out their article. Get them to self correct any errors of vocab
or grammar.
If students chose diffeerent topics, appoint one student to gather all articles (electronically
onto a disk or hard copies) for correction and publishing. The teacher (or an editorial
team of students) should correct the articles on printed copies like an editor would, and
have all students fix their own errors before printing a final version of the journal for
students to retain a copy. This correction and publication cycle should occur within 7
days. Use the feedback and revision periods if necessary.
Remind students they will write 2 essays in the end of course (ADFELPS) writing test.
Their writing will be judged on the three qualities discussed.

Supplementary Reading
Place some interesting and relevant reading materials in the classroom for students to
borrow or access in class. These should be topical and recent, such as can be obtained
from the Internet. Regularly remind students to utilise these extra resources.
Supplied here:
Burne, Gerome, Monkey doctors worth aping, Book review in The Age, 28 January
Hoffmann, Lisa, U.S. military losing the war against fat, Extracts from: U.S. military
battles big bellies, Scripps Howard News Service, 31 December 2001.