When Your Teen Struggles With Essays

So many kids either hate essays or they think they’re not good at writing or they don’t know where to start. They’re staring at this blank page and they’re like, how do I even know where to begin? Essays are hard for them. They don’t like essays for one reason or another.

Let’s look at this through the lens of the how piece. Most kids, when they get an essay, they’ll sit down with the prompt and start writing. Maybe some of them, if they’re a bit more advanced, they’ll do an outline.

But for the most part, they’ll look at the prompt and then they’ll just start writing. This gives me a little bit of mild anxiety even just to think about it! It’s the worst way to do the assignment.

An essay has seven to eight steps for actually completing it.

Very distinct, specific steps. When your kids are doing their next essay, please take a look – what are the actual steps they’re working through?

Very few students, for example, start by deconstructing their guidelines. So when we get an essay prompt, we don’t even start to think about writing or planning or outlines. We don’t do anything until we have deconstructed the guidelines.

What does that mean? That means we go through the prompt line by line. Systematically and explicitly, one sentence at a time.

If they just read the essay prompt through, they don’t know what they’re doing. Of course it’s going to be hard. So when we’re deconstructing our guidelines – step one – we’re going through very explicitly, breaking things out in a visual format, to isolate each piece of information of the prompt so that kids are crystal clear on exactly what’s expected of them.

Just that exercise alone, deconstructing the guidelines – STEP 1!- gives tremendous clarity on what’s expected. And very often it provides a roadmap for exactly how to complete the essay. And it becomes so much easier all of a sudden to do it.

But most kids don’t know that that’s a part of the process. They don’t know how to write an essay, so they don’t do the very first step, and the whole thing feels ‘hard’.

TL;DR: when they don’t learn how to do something, students will find it hard. Essay writing is not actually about writing; it’s about following the steps to create a logical, coherent product. Thinking critically, analyzing, planning all come first. Writing comes last. Students who don’t understand this will find essays “hard.”

Everyone can learn the steps for EASILY writing GOOD essays.

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