Essay writing is generally viewed by students in Malaysia as a pain, and most probably because it involves a lot of creative thinking and lots of writing!
Our key point #1 "Think in English" applies to essay writing very much. Along with a good command of English and understanding of grammar skills, creativity is what is needed in essay writing.
On the second week of each month, our classes write essays. Form 1-5 students (age 13-17) will be expected to write an essay of over 200 words while Standard 1-6 students (age 7-12) will write an answer to a question of between 70-100 words.
The task is getting students' minds stimulated to think creatively and come up with more than one idea on a certain subject. Then they need to be able to explain all of those ideas in greater detail. That's the challenge.
When writing essays, most especially for students in Form 1-5, I have devised a criteria which I believe makes up a great essay.
#1 - PLAN
Every great essay begins with a plan. Typically in answering an essay question, one should think of 3 main points (or 4 or 5, as the question may request), and then come up with 3 sub-points to further describe each main point. This should be brief. This plan provides the frame for the entire essay.
#2 - CORRECT GRAMMAR
Using correct English grammar is vital in writing a great essay. Good sentence structure, correct use of tense and spelling makes an essay easy to read with good flow.
#3 - VOCABULARY
Possessing a wide vocabulary is an important part of writing a great essay. Nobody wants to read a couple of pages littered with the same words, repeated again and again and again throughout the essay. Instead, a student should demonstrate a knowledge of synonyms (words which have similar meanings to each other), and how to use them appropriately.
#4 - PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In essays where general issues or topics are discussed, a student can really bring his essay to life by writing about his own personal experiences related to the question. This will set his essay apart from the others and make it more interesting to read. It will be his own essay, and not merely a copy or one which is full of cliches (often-repeated phrases or words).
#5 - OPINION
A truly great essay should also include the writer's opinion on whatever subject or issue is raised in the question. Like point #4, this will further personalise the essay and make it more unique.
In our classes, we strive to emphasise these five important points students may follow in writing great essays.
Essays don't need to be a pain in the posterior when they are planned with creative thinking, good grammar and vocabulary, and include personal experiences and opinions.
What do you think? Do you enjoy essay writing? What is the biggest challenge in writing essays?