Looking to help kids write essays?
I remember an essay I wrote in eighth grade about a specific chapter in Gulliver’s Travels. My English composition teacher adored it and praised it through the roof. I also remember another one I wrote as a senior about Jane Austen for a contest. It received an Honorable Mention, but only because there were four entries and mine didn’t nearly come close to the quality of the other entries.
Writing essays is a learned skill. Some of us feel more confident right from the start, but we can all learn helpful steps to take when writing essays.
I recently tackled an essay contest for kids with all three of my boys. If you’re a regular reader of my site, you know I already believe there is a strong connection between physical activity and creativity. That’s why I encourage my children to get involved in sports and games and this winter we are doing Kids of STEEL for the first time. It’s a non-competitive running club for kids organized by the team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.
The essay contest was optional but I felt it was important for my boys to write their 100 word essays on their favorite healthy snacks. But they needed a little help writing their essays.
A good way to help kids write essays is to coach them on how to write, but not what to write. That’s one of the hardest things to manage when you need to help kids write essays. The idea is to coach kids through some useful exercises that will lead to the essay without telling them exactly what to write.
It can feel a bit painful, and it’s certainly easier to write it for them. Some kids will take longer than others and need more coaching than others. But think long term here! The idea is not to just finish the essay, the goal is to help them learn how to do this for themselves…unless you are really eager to continue doing their school assignments for them all the way through college.
Here are some ideas that I shared with my boys and that I learned from other parents.
Brainstorm your essay topic
- Make a list of your favorite snacks
- Imagine how your favorite snack smells
- Describe the colors of your favorite snack
- Start with a photo or draw a picture of your favorite snack
Writing the essay
- Start with a joke
- Make an acrostic or a fun rhyming poem
- Describe instructions on how to make the snack
- Convince another kid to try the snack
As one of the moms organizing the essay submissions from our school, I was really excited to see the wonderful variety of snacks and writing styles. Most of the essays were typed but it was obvious the words were straight out the kids’ mouths. There are prizes for this contest, but the real prize in my opinion is giving my children more practice in picking a topic, brainstorming an opinion and then expressing their opinion in writing. That’s a skill that will always be needed.
There are more ideas on my Pinterest board Writers’ Resources for kids and adults.
Did you write essays as a kid? Do you remember one that went particularly well or just plain awful?