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Teaching Academic Writing

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Typically in the third, fourth, or fifth grade, we begin teaching elementary school students how to write academically. Previously many of these children have only had experience writing fiction or narratives or short nonfiction pieces. This transition can be a challenge for our students, and it’s important that when teaching academic writing, teachers offer clear and explicit instruction. 

Do you remember the looney tunes and how Porky Pig would come on at the end and stutter through saying, “That’s all folks?” Well, I once had a student end a five-paragraph essay that way. 

This is a clear indication that the student has not mastered academic writing, and I needed to reteach and review what this style of writing looks like.

Academic writing, or five-paragraph essay writing, is its own style. When children are first introduced to it the specific rules for this writing style, they can be confused.

It’s more constrained and harder than any writing they’ve been asked to do in their education so far. 

That is why we need to make sure we are teaching academic writing explicitly and giving our students reasonable rules to follow to help them transition to this style. 

In this post, we’re going to go over common features of academic writing and how to teach them. 

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Academic writing is different than other styles of writing. In academic writing, the author has to maintain a professional and authoritative tone. 

They need to avoid informal phrases, like “that’s all folks,” and present evidence to either educate their reader or prove a point.

It’s different than other styles children are probably more familiar with because of the formal tone. 

Each sentence has a job and has to be working towards the end goal of the essay. Students cannot get sidetracked or go off topic when writing. 

This will naturally take a while for students to get used to, and they’ll need lots of practice and need to see lots of examples.

This is a common sample I use to show students what a body paragraph should sound like. The topic is the importance of keeping wolves alive in the wild.

All wolves, not just the red wolves are very important to the environment because of their place on the food chain. Wolves are at the top of the food chain. This means that wolves have to be in charge of controlling the population of other animals by eating them. If there are no wolves the number of herbivores will explode, and they will eat all the plants. “Wolves play a key role in keeping ecosystems healthy. They help keep deer and elk populations in check, which can benefit many other plant and animal species.” ( Without wolves, the environment gets thrown out of balance. Red Wolves live in North Carolina. If they all die, there will be no animals to control the deer and elk. North Carolina needs the wolves for the environment. 

My Sample Essays

I have written sample essays for three different kinds of five paragram essays. They are all available for purchase here!

Teaching academic writing takes a long time, as students will need many opportunities to practice and master the craft. 

Make sure to have reasonable expectations for your students given their specific needs and grade level. 

When I’m teaching students to write academically for the first time, I like to break down the essay sentence by sentence. 

Like I said above, each sentence has a job, and so I like to start with the most important sentence, the claim.

We break down what the claim has to sound like, and how it has to be an opinion. Even a basic opinion that most people would agree with. The purpose of this is just to get students in the habit of inserting their opinions into the essay. 

We go over what the claim does, and I might model what writing it looks like. Students will then have to write their own. 

Afterward, we move on to the other components of academic writing such as…

  • Hooks
  • Introduction Story
  • Topic sentences
  • Evidence
  • Analysis of Evidence 
  • Why it matters 
  • And so on

I have prewritten sample essays with all of these components available for purchase by clicking here!

I also teach my students to follow certain rules when they are learning academic writing, as I find this helps with the tone of their essay and improves their transition to this writing style.

My main two rules are

  1. Do not use the words “I” or “you.” The reader and author should be invisible. The author’s thoughts should be presented as facts.
  2. Avoid informal language you would use with friends and families, and think of how you talk to your teachers.

The second rule is often harder for my students with autism and other social problems to follow.

Additionally, students with dyslexia will struggle to transition to learning this writing style.

Click here to learn more about Dyslexia.

When teaching academic writing, be prepared to be patient and calm. It’s going to be new and frustrating for your students and a few of them might want to give up.

Stay encouraging of all effort and growth and keep calm. 

Also remember, you can save tons of prep time by purchasing my downloadable sample essays! 

Click here to purchase.

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