Many private schools emphasize good writing, and writing is a central part of private schools' curricula. While students who attend private middle schools are often given direct instruction in how to construct an essay, students who start attending private school in high school may be expected to write well, even if they haven't received instruction about how to do so. If students haven't learned to write clear, organized essays, their grades may suffer, as many tests in English, history, and other subjects ask students to write well under time pressure. In addition, students often have to write a number of papers on their reading and to produce well-documented research papers. As private school classes tend to be small, teachers tend to give a large number of writing assignments because they can grade them all and consider them carefully, so students can not escape this requirement in private schools. If students are struggling with their writing, here are some strategies to improve.
Learn How to Structure your Essay
Part of becoming a better writer involves becoming a better reader, in that students must read carefully and with close attention to the text. Reading quickly without digesting the information or being attuned to the word choices the writer uses will result in sloppy, overgeneralized papers.
In addition, writers must learn to structure a clear and convincing argument. In the typical five-paragraph essay, writers have to follow a structure that pares down their argument and that presents their evidence or support in a concise, clear way. Here is the break-down of what should appear in each paragraph:
- The first paragraph should introduce the topic and contain a thesis, or the point the author is trying to prove. The thesis should be more than just a statement of the facts; instead, it should try to prove something about which either side can be argued. In simple terms, "dogs are animals" is not argumentative, while "dogs are better than cats" is a better thesis because it can be argued.
- The next three paragraphs are the body paragraphs. In each paragraph, there should be a topic sentence that states the point of that paragraph and that offers support or evidence to back up the point. For example, the body paragraphs in an essay about why dogs are better than cats would each offer a reason why pooches are superior to felines.
- The concluding paragraph should restate the thesis, or point of the essay, in different words, and it should leave the reader with something to think about-in other words, a wider, more important point related to the topic.
Write Using a Process
Writers must follow a process for writing that includes brainstorming, or coming up with the right topic; writing a rough draft; and then editing or revising. While it is often difficult for students to see their mistakes, reading their papers out loud can often help them find errors in grammar, organization, and construction. As they read, they should ask themselves the following types of questions:
- Have I written in essay that is argumentative, and that argues a specific point?
- Does my essay fulfill the requirements of the assignment?
- Have I made grammatical or spelling errors?
- Have I formatted my paper correctly?
- Is my paper organized well? Have I followed the basic five-paragraph format?
- Did I use transition words to move from example to example, such as "in addition," "similarly," and "in conclusion?"
- Does my essay provide substantial support for what I am arguing? If I am writing about a book, does my essay use convincing, telling quotes to prove my points?
Though revision is a lengthy process, asking oneself the questions above and reading an essay out loud can help a student figure out whether she has written a convincing, clear, and correct piece of work before handing it in.