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6 Tips To Help ESL Students Write A Successful Essay

Essay writing can be daunting for ESL students. Not only do they need to order their thoughts and structure their arguments, but they have to do this in their second language, ensuring that their vocabulary and syntax is correct. Luckily, there are some simple strategies you can put in place to help students write effective and engaging essays.

1. Choose An Interesting Topic
Help students choose a topic for their essay which interests them and they find engaging to write about. Students may at times choose topics which are too broad, making it difficult to write a focused essay. As such, support them by helping to narrow the focus of their topic and encourage ESL students to choose one central question to focus on throughout their essay. This will also help them when structuring their essay.

2. Research And Planning
Encourage students to research the topic thoroughly. The more familiar with the topic a student is, the easier they will find it to write. Support students to brainstorm their ideas and then create a clear plan from which they can work.

One of the simplest and clearest essay structures to use, especially with ESL students, is the “hamburger essay” structure. This consists of one introductory paragraph, followed by three body paragraphs, and finishing with a conclusion paragraph. It’s a clear structure that will help keep your students’ writing focused.

3. Introductory Paragraph
The introductory paragraph should be used to hook the reader and outline the main thesis of the essay. This should include a brief outline of the main points which will be covered in the body paragraphs, as well as outlining the main stance from which the student is writing.

Depending on the essay topic, there will be different ways that students can hook readers from the start. They may choose to use a relevant quotation, share an important and relevant fact or statistic, or even begin with a joke, if this is appropriate and in-keeping with the style of the essay.

4. The Body Paragraphs
Each paragraph should explore a single point only. Ensure that students are familiar with the acronym P.E.E. (point, explanation, evidence) and encourage them to structure each paragraph around this structure for clarity and focus. Each point should refer back to the central question or thesis of the essay.

As a general rule, the simpler the point, the more complex the language which can be used to explain it. However, for more complex points, encourage students to use shorter, simpler sentences. This will help their writing to be clear and easy to follow.

5. The Conclusion
This is an opportunity for students to reiterate their main points and reaffirm their position. It’s important not to introduce any new points at this time. However, a good essay can encourage further thinking from the reader.

Depending on the essay thesis, there are different strategies which can be employed to effectively conclude the essay. For example, the essay may be ended with a relevant and thought-provoking quotation, a reference to future possibilities or consequences, or even a call to action from readers, in an attempt to inspire them.

6. Editing And Proofreading
As with any piece of writing, it’s essential to edit and proofread the essay once it’s completed. Encourage students to leave it for a day or two before starting editing. This will allow them get a fresh perspective and make it easier to spot any grammatical or spelling mistakes. To help students identify any structural errors, provide them with a checklist they can use as part of their editing process.

Due to limitations in vocabulary and lack of confidence with the language, ESL students sometimes tend to use the same vocabulary repeatedly. Encourage students to use a thesaurus to help vary their word choice, as well as to help widen their active vocabulary. Another useful editing strategy is to have students read their work aloud, as this will help them to check the overall rhythm and clarity of their writing.

Conclusion Provide students with secure foundations by helping them to clearly articulate their essay thesis, plan their essay using the “hamburger essay” structure and reviewing their work once completed. In so doing, not only will you help ESL students develop more advanced writing skills, but also to improve their confidence and belief in what they can achieve.

Lauren Groff is an experienced education writer at Academized.com, where she regularly shares essay writing tips and tricks with her readers. When not writing, Lauren enjoys spending time reading and staying up to date with the latest trends in education and attending writing conferences.
Author: Lauren Groff