top of page
  • Writer's pictureWrite and Read (Laura)

Teaching Essay Writing in Secondary ELA

A girl in a purple top is holding a pencil to a paper. Next to her, a girl with a tan sweater is writing. The bold pink and purple text says "Teaching Essay Writing in Secondary ELA."

Teaching students how to write essays can be a challenge. I’ve taught middle school and high school, and I always come across the same problems because students want the fastest way to a finished essay. Here are my must-haves for teaching secondary students how to write essays.


Students may groan at the mention of prewriting, but skipping it leads to essays that are unorganized and off topic. Whether it’s an outline or another form of prewriting, students need to have a starting point. Getting their ideas down before they start writing their essays helps the entire process and actually saves them time in the end.

Pages of graphic organizers are laid out on top of teal construction paper.  There is a 5 paragraph essay outline, topic page, introduction organizer, body paragraph organizer, and RACE strategy graphic organizer. An iPad sits on top displaying a graphic organizer for a body paragraph.

Graphic Organizers

Detailed graphic organizers are a lifesaver. If you have graphic organizers that break down each paragraph and walk students through the entire essay, students can be more independent with their drafting. It’s challenging helping 30 students when everyone is confused about what goes where and how they should assemble a paragraph. Let graphic organizers help you with that.


Do your students know what an essay written at their grade level would look like? Most of the time, students don’t. Sharing some exemplars helps students better understand your expectations of their final essays.


Students often confuse revision with editing. You ask them to do some revisions, and they add a few commas. Revision is a skill that needs to be taught. Project a sample essay with your document camera, and show students how you would revise it. They need to see how an experienced writer would make information clear and concise.

I hope my list of essay writing must-haves helps you with your next writing unit. No matter what kind of essay your students are working on, they need to understand that writing is a process. Be sure to provide students with all of the tools they need to make it through the process.

Writing Resources:



bottom of page