Essay Elements Review

Author: Jill Torrey Emmons

Time: 1 class period
20 minutes
Materials: Copies of article on Bangladesh water problem, copies of the essay prompt, reference texts on essay writing


Students are now ready for their first formal persuasive writing assignment. However, many ninth graders still have a rusty grasp of essay writing techniques. This lesson will help refresh their memories about the components, organization, and process of essay writing. The essay topic deals with an important environmental health issue directly related to their final project: arsenic contamination of the water supply. The goal of this lesson is to help students explore and review the basic elements of essay writing in preparation for their persuasive composition.

Students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate use of proper essay technique in their composition.
2. Incorporate the persuasive appeals in their own writing.

National English Education Standard
Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Teacher Background
Teachers should be familiar with the basic elements of essay composition, including:

  • Format: introduction, middle, conclusion
  • Thesis statements: main idea, position
  • Conventions: spelling and grammar
  • Sentences: variety (simple, compound, complex), topic sentences, transitions
  • Supporting evidence: facts, details, examples

Related and Resource Websites
The Five Paragraph Essay: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Atrium/1437/tips.html
Essay Writing Tips: http://members.tripod.com/~lklivingston/essay/
The Writing Den: http://www2.actden.com/writ_den/tips/contents.htm
Article on Bangladesh: http://www.eng-consult.com/arsenic/article/Arsenic-Meghbarta.htm



1. Before class begins, write the following question of the day on the board: What is an essay? Give students a few minutes to ponder this question and write down their responses.

2. After about 5 minutes, ask the class to share some of their ideas. Student responses may include “a formal piece of writing”, “something you write in school”, or “an organized writing”. Ask students to identify some of the key parts that define an essay, such as: introduction, conclusion, paragraphs, a thesis statement, etc. List these on the board. Then ask the class, “What do you know about how to write an essay?” Write down the students responses, and encourage them to specify the order of the steps. Help the class understand that there are many different ways to write an essay, but generally the process follows this format:

a) Prewriting (collecting ideas on a topic, brainstorming)
b) Rough drafting (crafting an initial copy of your essay)
c) Proofreading (checking your work for errors and correcting them)
d) Final Drafting (writing final, clean, revised copy of your essay)

Explain to the class that they will be using this process in order to write a persuasive essay on an environmental health topic. Stop to answer any questions and clarify the process.

3. Review with the class the following essay writing terms and techniques (you may want to give these in the form of notes, discussion, or on a handout).
Your essay should contain the following:

  • A clear beginning, middle, and end
  • An introduction that outlines the course of your essay and interests your audience
  • A clear thesis, which discusses your opinion on the topic
  • Ideas organized and separated into paragraphs
  • Paragraphs beginning with a topic sentence and ending with a transitional sentence
  • Opinions supported by evidence
  • A conclusion which reviews the main points of your essay and leaves the audience with a sense of completion

Take as much time as needed to identify, discuss, and clarify how all of these elements are developed and how they function in an essay. If necessary, this lesson may be expanded into two days, or you may choose to create individual lessons which focus on specific essay components.

Pass out the following essay prompt to the class, along with the article on Bangladesh:
“ After reading the source article on UNICEF’s involvement in the water contamination problem in Bangladesh, write a persuasive essay in which you argue your position on the following question: Was it a good decision for UNICEF to dig tube wells in Bangladesh during the 1970’s? Support your position with evidence from the article, and remember to use the persuasive techniques we have learned about, including at least one of the persuasive appeals to convince your audience (logic, emotion, or ethics).”

Have students read the article on arsenic contamination in Bangladesh, and decide their position on the issue. Students must write at least the introductory paragraph of their essays, and bring it in the following day for critique.

Embedded Assessment
Assess students’ prior knowledge on the correct use of essay techniques during discussion, and evaluate introductory paragraphs, looking for a clear thesis and an outline of major points.



PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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