The Beginning, the Middle, and The End: The Essay Format
Years ago, when I was in college studying composition in order to become an English teacher and teach others about composition, a teacher boiled down the rules of essay writing to this:
- Tell readers what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you just told them
In other words, provide an introduction, the body, and then the conclusion. It sounds simple, but when your kids sit down to write an essay, they may find themselves a bit overwhelmed. That is when learning the keys to each part of an essay will not only make the writing easier, but more fun.
The Beginning: Introduction of the Essay
Have you ever sat down to read the first chapter of a book or the first paragraph of an article and found you’re bored by the end of the first sentence? Chances are, you will put the book or newspaper down and, while you may think you will come back to it later, you probably won’t. When you’re reading, the first line or two is the introduction—and its main job is to make a really good first impression. When you’re child is writing, the introduction needs to be engaging and intriguing enough to keep readers reading!
Along with being interesting, an introduction should state the topic of the essay and why it is important to read more about it. It says to the reader, here is what you are going to read about. In other words, this is what I am going to tell you.
How the introduction is styled largely depends on the type of essay being written. If your child is writing an expository essay, for example, that introduction may include a statement such as, “Game systems have changed dramatically over the past few decades, which explains why the number of players has reached into the billions.” If your child is writing a persuasive essay, a claim or opinion should be stated such as, “All experienced game players know that PlayStation game systems are far superior to the Xbox game systems.” If it is a narrative essay, the introduction will start with an engaging hook or story. “The day that I started playing ‘Halo’, my life changed for the better.”
The Middle: Body of the Essay
The introduction made it clear to the reader what the essay is going to be about. It is the body, however, that supports that statement, claim, or story. This is where your child can use a variety of information to explain what has been stated in the introduction. For expository essays, common details to use in the body are facts, statistics, and research from books, websites, and other research. For example, your child might state that “Currently, the game Destiny has 20 million players, even though the game is only about a year old.” For persuasive essays, personal opinions are typically used. “PlayStation games are much better than Xbox because they are far more complex and much harder for me to beat in a short period of time.” Finally, for a narrative essay, personal stories are frequently used as support. “Playing ‘Halo’ has taught me more about teamwork and cooperation than anything else I’ve ever done.” With the body, your child has told readers what he said he would tell them in the introduction.
The End: Conclusion of the Essay
The ending of an essay is often the hardest part for people to write. It can be easy for kids to think, hey, I’m done and rush through the ending. However, an essay’s conclusion is just as important as the introduction and body. This is the chance for the writer to leave a lasting impression on readers. Just repeating the statement from the introduction is an easy out—and a mistake. Instead, a conclusion should provide a closing to the idea put forth in the essay.
In expository essays, the conclusion should be a summary of the topic. “Clearly, playing video games is a popular hobby for millions of people, and as systems continue to change, that number is bound to grow.”
In persuasive essays, it should be a call for action on the part of the reader. “Investing in a PlayStation rather than an Xbox is bound to make gamers happier and busier for years.” In narratives, conclusions are often the end of the story. “Because of what I learned playing ‘Halo’, I excelled at team sports at summer camp and at school.”
Beginning, middle, and end—they are what make an essay complete and wonderfully readable!
If there is topic you would like to see here, please feel free to email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, ideas, and suggestions. In the meantime, write on!