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How to Write an Essay

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Mother helping son with homework at table
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Organizing thoughts into a coherent piece of writing can be a daunting task for children with learning disabilities. The best way to pin those ideas down and put them into a form that others can follow is to use an outline. The tried-and-true I-II-III A-B-C outline works whether your child has to churn out a paragraph, a page or a paper. Here's how to use it for an essay; see also instructions for a single paragraph and a research paper.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: As much as your child can stand

Here's How:

  1. On a piece of scratch paper, write the Roman numerals I through V, with plenty of space in between.
  2. Following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each Roman numeral. The first sentence answers the question, the next three provide supporting reasons, and the last sentence rephrases the first one. See Example 1.
  3. For the moment, ignore Roman numerals I and V. You will do these first and last paragraphs after the middle ones.
  4. Under Roman numerals II, III and IV, write the letters A, B, C and D.
  5. Again following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each letter. You already have the first sentence. A, B, and C will be three reasons in support of it. D can rephrase your starting sentence; be a fourth reason in support; be replaced by an extra sentence to further develop one of the other reasons; or be omitted entirely. See Example 2.
  6. When you have completed Step 5 for Roman numerals II, III and IV, write the letters A, B, C and D under Roman numerals I and V.
  7. Again following the rules for How to Write a Paragraph, write a sentence next to each letter. You already have the first sentence. A, B, and C will rephrase the sentences you wrote in Roman numerals II, III and IV. D will rephrase the opening sentence for each paragraph. See Example 3.
  8. If all that rephrasing is too hard, brainstorm a creative opening or closing for your essay. You might try using a story, a quote or an observation. Your teacher may have rules about using the first person in an essay; if you're not sure, it's better not to do it.
  9. On another sheet of scratch paper, write all the sentences from your outline, in order, with the sentence from each Roman numeral starting a new paragraph. This is your rough draft. See Example 4.
  10. Read the rough draft aloud and smooth out any language that seems awkward. Try to vary the sentence structure within each paragraph (for example, don't start two sentences in a row with the same word). Proofread spelling and grammar.
  11. When you're satisfied with your draft, copy it over neatly or type it, depending on your teacher's requirements. Congratulations on completing a well-organized essay!

Tips:

  1. It may help to brainstorm before writing the sentences. On a piece of scratch paper, jot down any ideas at all in support of your answer. You may even want to brainstorm reasons for a number of answers, and then pick the answer with the strongest support. Pick three of your ideas and turn them into sentences for your outline.
  2. Graphic organizers can also be helpful in turning up ideas. Try a concept web, with your answer in the middle and ideas in all the little bubbles.

What You Need:

  • Scratch paper for outline, rough draft and brainstorming
  • Paper for writing out the final essay
  • Pen or pencil

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