How to Write Your First Persuasive Essay

You might have heard of this elusive ‘essay,’ but have never had the pleasure of writing one. It may seem overwhelming or daunting, but trust us, it isn’t!  Essays are just a way to argue a point. A persuasive essay is even more fun because it is just a way to argue in order to convince someone that you are correct — and we all love to be correct!

Often teachers will introduce the format of an essay by asking students to write an opinion or persuasive essay. The typical format of an essay while in middle and high school is usually 5 paragraphs: an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. So, before you start getting anxious, follow these 5 steps and conquer your first essay!

#1 Select a Side

Considering Both Sides

Sometimes it’s hard to pick a side when writing about a particular issue, but essays require us to argue for one side, and one side only. So, before you pick the side you think is the strongest, why not prove it to yourself by making a T-Chart. Write the two sides of the argument (sometimes this is pros vs. cons, but not always) at the top of the T-Chart. Then, try to come up with at least 3 arguments for each side. The side with the objectively best arguments should become the basis of your essay.

#2 Prepare Your Plan

Prepare a Plan

Graphic organizers are the best. Whether you are just mapping out the sub-arguments, or if you are filling out a graphic organizer in complete sentences, organizing your work is immensely helpful. The internet is full of amazing graphic organizers, so snoop around and find one that you love! We also love using Inspiration because it is so colourful and customize-able!

#3 Think Through Your Thesis

Think about your thesis

Your argument should be summed up in one sentence, and that sentence is called your thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually found in the last sentence of your introduction paragraph, and it provides your audience with a clear understanding of what your essay will be arguing. It’s okay to change the wording or specifics of your thesis in the revising and editing processes, but just make sure it reflects your central point.

#4 Provide Proof

A.P.E.: Argue, Prove, ExplainProof for an opinion essay comes in the form of common knowledge, real-world examples, and/or personal experiences. Each paragraph needs a least one piece of proof, and often has three pieces of proof that supports each body paragraph’s sub-argument. We suggest using the APE Strategy to ensure that you don’t forget to introduce your proof and explain how it supports your overall argument.

#5 Revise and Edit

Revision and Editing

Revision and editing is the last step of all written expression, and for good reason. This step is crucial because you can catch silly little mistakes you might have made along the way. We recommend reading your essay out loud. You can choose to read it out loud to yourself, or to a friend or family member. We also recommend that you check for homonyms and other word errors while you’re proofreading. Common word errors are: their/there/they’re, affect/effect, then/than, and accept/except.

Still think you need some assistance with your writing?  Contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space to inquire about our newly developed online Essay Coach Program to help!  You’ll be introduced to each of these strategies and more during our extensive, skill-based essay writing programs. We offer online one-on-one, as well as group classes. 

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Navigating the First Essay of the Year

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are starting to change colour, the weather is getting cooler, and you’re settling into your new school year routine.

As September speeds along, school work picks up again and, in the back of your head, you know that sooner or later you’re going to be asked to write a dreaded… dun dun dun… ESSAY! Don’t sweat. Even if essays are totally not your thing, we’re here to help with some helpful strategies to get you through the first essay of the year.

#1 Create Soft Due Dates

Soft Due Dates

As soon as you get the assignment, start planning out when you will work on it and what you need to do to complete the task. Give yourself lots of time. Do not write it the night before. Use a calendar or an agenda and give yourself ‘soft due dates.’ For example, you could make sure that you complete the outline two weeks before the hard due date (when you will need to submit it to your teacher).

 #2 Check Your Thesis

If this is your first essay of the year, or if this is your first essay ever, make sure that you have a thesis! We recommend asking your teacher before you finish your essay outline if he/she approves of your thesis. That way if your teacher thinks you should change it, you won’t have to rewrite everything! The thesis is the heart of your essay, so it is crucial for your success. Remember: ‘thesis’ is just a fancy word for argument, and most teachers want to find your thesis statement in the last sentence of your introduction.

#3 Ask Questions

Asking Questions

Your teacher is new to you, and you are new to your teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! From an educator’s perspective, we LOVE when students come to us and ask questions. It shows that you are motivated, trying, and engaged!  Teachers are a wealth of knowledge and are always there to help.

#4 Proofread

Spelling error correction in writing

Give yourself lots of time by setting soft due dates and, whatever you do, don’t forget to proofread!  It’s so incredibly important and you’ll be amazed at the silly mistakes you’ll find. We always suggest reading your essay out loud while you proofread because it’ll be easier to catch awkward sentences, omitted words, and repeated ideas or words.

Here at RRLS we offer incredibly thorough programs that teach the essay writing process so that students not only leave with a finished product, but they also leave with pertinent writing skills they will use for the rest of their lives. We offer three different Essay Coach Programs: opinion essays, literary essays, and research essays. 

5 Ways to Help Prepare Your Teen for High School

hallwayHeading to high school is a big step. It’s a new chapter in your teen’s life with  new teachers, new classes, new hallways, new expectations… and that can be intimidating. Too many kids are totally unprepared for what awaits them at their new school in the fall and so their first experiences can be stressful.

We suggest that you help your recent elementary grads by sprinkling in some hidden skill-building fun while basking in the summer sun!  It’ll ease the stress of September and build confidence!


Write More!Creative

Letters might be a lost art, but I’m calling for a revival. There is nothing better than the joy of finding a letter in the mailbox. Encourage your teen to write postcards and letters while on trips or when visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Note: Texting doesn’t count as a letter.

Daily writing can be therapeutic. Suggest writing in a journal nightly. Learning to express yourself clearly through writing is a valuable life skill, so the content doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the effort. Sometimes kids need a little encouragement, so here are some summer journaling ideas from Simple as That.


Get an agenda

At the beginning of the school year, most schools will either provide each student with an agenda or one will be available to purchase.  However, many kids don’t know how to use it. Getting into a routine of using a calendar or an agenda is incredibly helpful for people of all ages, and summer is the perfect time to start.  Encourage your teen to begin by adding all of the fun stuff — camp, sleepovers, birthdays, trips — and then add tasks or chores they are responsible for. Check in once a week to see how they’re doing!


Visit the school

If your teen is expressing some anxiety about not knowing where things are in a new school, take a tour! Most schools are still open a week after the last day of school, and a week before the first day of school.  Squelch worry by brainstorming ways to make new friends, and how to ask for help from teachers!


Read… Anything!8435321969_c1eea0631a_o

This just in: reading books in the summer doesn’t cause allergic reactions! Not a single hive or rash to be found. Incredible news, right? Reading is a great way to relax, and a fantastically fun way to exercise those brain muscles. It doesn’t matter if your teen is reading Shakespeare’s folio or a favourite sci-fi author — just keep reading. Lead by example by bringing a book to the beach or have dedicated reading time at night.

Need some book suggestions? Check out our blog, Throwback Summer Reads — Tween Edition for some great titles.


Hone Those Skills

If your teen had trouble last year academically in any area or lacks confidence, find a program this summer that will help build the skills needed  boost confidence. Don’t wait until the middle of the school year!  There are so many wonderful programs and academic summer camps that foster and develop foundational skills.  Of course it is hard to hit the books while on summer vacation, but spending a week learning how to organize an essay will save your teen (and you!), from a lot of unnecessary stress during the year.

Don’t forget to get outside this summer and explore. Some of the best learning comes from exploring the world around you. Remember to enjoy your vacation — it doesn’t last forever, so make every second count.

There are a plethora of fantastic programs  and one-on-one classes offered by Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space to help your teen hone skills before high school. This summer we are offering two essay coach camps where teens can build the necessary essay-writing skills to help them confidently tackle any essay a teacher throws their way! Happy learning!

Planning for Your Essay

Photo Credit Deposit PhotosTime management is an important part of all aspects of life.  Knowing how long something will take you, and making mini-deadlines for yourself allows you to avoid late night anxiety-filled cry-fests.  We suggest a couple of fool-proof ways to keep organized when tackling a large assignment or essay.

Personalized Checklists

A personalized checklist allows you to adapt the checklist to things that you know you’ll forget. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it feels awesome to check off boxes systematically — there is a great deal of satisfaction that you can get from it.  There are a variety of ways that you can use a checklist, and we suggest the following:

  • When you first receive the assignment, use a checklist to make sure  you fully understand what the expectations are

For example: Do I have a minimum of 3 sources?

  • After you have written the first draft, use a checklist to revise the flow and overall argument of the essay

For example: Does each paragraph have a suitable topic sentence and conclusion? 

  • After you have revised, use a checklist to look for specific grammar mistakes

For example: Did I look specifically for incorrect uses of apostrophes? 

  • After you believe your paper is completely finished, review the personalized checklist you made for yourself when you first received the assignment

For example: Did I include the correct style of title page? 

Mini-deadlines

Not everyone loves making deadlines, but for large essays they are essential.  We suggest making deadlines for when you should have your:Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

  • Research and/or reading complete
  • Rough thesis statement written
  • Rough outline complete
  • First draft complete
  • Bibliography complete
  • Essay draft edited and  proofread

 Backwards Planning

Backwards planning is exactly what it sounds like.  Start with a monthly calendar and record the essay’s due date. Then, add your mini-deadlines that we discussed above and start plugging them into your calendar!

Mapping out time to complete your essay will save you a lot of stress.  So many students want to write a 10 page essay the night before and panic when they realize it’s 4 a.m and they haven’t finished their research.  This can lead to unnecessary stress that you can easily avoid!  Next time you are assigned an essay, take a few minutes and plan!  Your future self will thank you!

Photo Credit: Deposit Photo
Dear Past Self, Thanks! Love, Future Self

Want to learn more about backwards planning and organizational strategies to help you with essay writing?  RRLS is now offering an online Essay Coach program to help you with all of your essay needs. A certified teacher will meet with you online and help you with the essay-writing process.  You will be left with invaluable skills and resources that you can use for a lifetime!  

Common Essay Types You’ll Encounter in High School

Essay
Credit: Depositphotos

Last week we gave you a few definitions for essay jargon that you might hear your English teacher use. We hope that you found our simple explanations helpful and that you are now ready to tackle more! We discussed that an essay is just the written expression of an argument. Today we’ll explore a few types of essays that you’ll most likely encounter before graduating high school.

The Persuasive Essay 

This is the most common type of essay you will encounter in high school.  You argue a central point in order to persuade your reader. You prove your point  by providing research that supports your argument in a persuasive manner. You will need to use quotations or paraphrase your research in the body of your essay and cite these sources.

A persuasive essay might be about why homework should be abolished.

The Argumentative Essay 

This is an essay that is incredibly similar to a persuasive essay, but research is not always necessary.  You argue your opinion by exploring the pros and cons of an issue and arguing why your opinion is correct. You still want to back up your opinion by providing evidence, but you should be looking at both sides.

An argumentative essay might be about the pros and cons of going to school five days a week.

 The Analytical Essay 

This is an essay you will most likely encounter in English class. You will need to analyze a work of literature by looking at the literary devices and themes in the text. This type of essay will require the use of quotations and examples from the text(s) as evidence or proof of your argument.

An analytical essay might analyze how love is represented in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The Expository Essay 

This is an essay that is usually a personal response to something.  You could be asked to discuss an issue or theme of an event, work of literature, debate, etc.

An expository essay might be your personal reaction to the anti-homework parade you attended.

Researching for an essay
Credit: Depositphotos

There are many types of essays and we recognize that it’s hard to keep them all straight. At RRLS we have created an essay-writing support program that is online and face-to-face.  Our certified teachers can help you tackle any type of essay.  We divide our essay types Opinion, Research, Literary, and Application Essays.  

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF POWER WRITING

I am consistently amazed at the ‘power’ that Power Writing has to unlock an individual’s writing potential. Power Writing is based on a unique numerical approach to mastering the written word. As a result, the writing process becomes more enjoyable; organized and coherent writing emerges. It’s a win-win situation!

Discovering My Approach to Power Writing

Sometimes, life provides a series of clues that one must piece together in order to gain a deeper understanding of a situation. So was the case with Power Writing, for me.

I provide academic support to students on an individual basis. A common theme in our work is written expression, getting one’s ideas down on paper. In sourcing out the best method for constructing a paragraph, I came across a graphic organizer with a picture of an umbrella, with the labels Power 1 on the top, and Power 2 on the handle. Inspired, I started to use it to differentiate between a topic sentence and supporting details.

Several months later, one of my colleagues shared a list of ‘Power Signal Words’, words used to transition from one supporting detail to another; this helped build on my Power Writing methods. Having used what I had already pieced together with success, I felt compelled to search out the origins of the work in order to build a more comprehensive teaching tool.

The History of Power Writing

I found a program that was originally developed by a college professor in the U.S., that broke the structure of writing into numbered parts. It was later adapted for elementary and high school students by Betty Hamilton, who worked with two other educators to streamline the ideas for the classroom. I have expanded on their original numerical concept, and added a kinaesthetic and multi-sensory approach.

My goal was to create an engaging, active model to teach writing, while appealing to a wide variety of learning styles and differences. Using dynamic activities, games and puzzles allows the fundamentals of writing to come alive based on a very clear structure.

Power Writing at RRLS

At RRLS, we have implemented Power Writing with great success for several years. Students who employ Power Writing strategies learn to clearly visualize and organize their thoughts, find the right words, and structure their sentences in a manner that allows each student to fully express themselves. In implementing this systematic method, we have seen dramatic improvements in both the attitude toward writing and confidence of our students.  The results include greater personal satisfaction and quality of work.

The biggest benefit of Power Writing is that it takes the fear and anxiety out of writing.

Who benefits:

It’s a method that has been very useful for students with:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • expressive language issues
  • executive functioning issues
  • reading disabilities
  • those who are highly verbal but have a hard time getting their thoughts on paper

Power Writing can be used with gifted students as well! Many highly creative and imaginative students have difficulty streamlining their ideas, and become overwhelmed by the possibilities, rendering them immobile. Power Writing provides a clear path and structure for their work, while allowing their thoughts to flow.

I’m a huge advocate for Power Writing because I have seen how well it works!

More information is available on my site at http://ruthrumack.com/power_writing.htm