• The Learn Lab

Essay writing: Why teaching students how to structure their writing is key to their success.



This week I launched the first in a series of resources that look at how to structure essays at A-level and beyond. During my ten years of teaching and tutoring, the one skill that seems to remain firmly off the agenda in schools and universities is how to structure an essay down to the finest details. The students that have gone on to excel in their studies, I have found, are the ones that have taken the time to arm themselves with a firm understanding of how to write, and most significantly, how to plan an essay.

The dreaded essay plan has always been a point of contention, especially when tutoring students in KS4 who are keen to 'get it out and get it over with' rather than using the information they have been taught to build a structure with words. Put it to them this way, just as an equation is required to work out a correct answer in mathematics, a decent plan is paramount in generating an effective essay. The acronym laden world of GCSE English had the best of intentions in terms of simplifying writing, but ultimately stifles the process too rigidly into a recurring nightmare of PPE, PEE, PEA, PEAL, PETAL. Thus, when it's time to tackle essays in further and higher education, many students produce heavily descriptive and uncreative pieces without the necessary research or context to underpin their ideas.

Although I used the analogy of a maths equation to demonstrate the imperative nature of the essay plan, this does not mean writing should be prescriptive and bound to a repetitive formula. The plan in all its structured glory is there to ensure that the writing up becomes a fluid, and dare I say, enjoyable process to engage with creative readings and imaginative connections.

The Essay Writing 101 series is designed to be a companion to the initial stages of learning plan, figuring out referencing, engaging with critical material as well as close up explorations of paragraph and even sentence structures to apply to the essay writing process. Part one is available now and presents the rules of good academic writing, from the overall structure, down to the introduction, paragraphing and critical engagement. Part Two will look at referencing and will be available from Monday 15th March.

Without the pressure of looming exams and with schools open again, now is the time to master essay writing.


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