A much-published writer and former English professor, I have taught and tutored processed-based, five-paragraph-style essay writing for 40 years.
Among the many students I've tutored include those from Phillips Academy (Andover), Cornell University, St. Albans School (DC), UN International School (NYC), the University of California, the University of Michigan, Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College, The Dalton School (NYC), Saratoga High School (SF Bay Area), Wellesley College, and Columbia University.
Per my extensive teaching and writing experience—and training*—I break essay writing into an easy-to-learn, six-step, four-aspect process.
Though they sometimes go by other names, the four aspects are content, organization, development and language.
The six steps: 1) know or research topic, 2) brainstorm or free-write (if freewrite, must then brainstorm), 3) organize/finalize brainstorm (equivalent to super-detailed outline or blueprint), 4) convert organized/finalized brainstorm to sentences and paragraphs (first draft),** 5) identify strengths and weaknesses, 6) preserve strengths, eliminate weaknesses.
By breaking essay writing into smaller, more manageable tasks, students can perfect each aspect separately, yielding better essays.***
The first three "prewriting" steps are key to this method's success. These steps require the student to figure out EVERYTHING before writing a single sentence.
(It's hard, and requires discipline, patience and perseverance, but the results are excellent.)
Inevitably, beside essay writing and critical thinking, I elevate a student’s listening, notetaking and study skills.
In addition, because we read our writing aloud at every stage, students improve their public speaking skills.
Reading aloud at every stage also allows a student’s higher-level speaking and listening skills to pull up his or her writing.
We write in a common Google Document, and use a video app to talk and share screens, which allows us, together, to visit online dictionaries, grammar sites, etc.
* I studied the theory and practice of teaching essay writing at three universities, including NYU and the University of California. I have a BA in literature from the University of California (double minor in biology and chemistry), and an MFA in writing from Columbia University.
** Because of the first three steps, this is a pretty advanced first draft.
*** The bad news is the process takes longer than trying to do everything at once. The good news is, rather than a mystical, mysterious, hit-or-miss approach, the process is sure-fire, scientific and explicit—students become fully aware and in charge of what they communicate.
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