What exactly is an essay? The term “essay” can be a little confusing for many elementary school students and teachers. Teachers are also sometimes confused about how to teach essay writing and in what grade they should teach students essay writing. The truth is that much of what students write in both elementary school and middle school can be, and should be, considered essay writing.

Aldous Huxley, a famous essayist said this: “The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.”

That’s quite a vague, yet accurate description. Essay writing is a little easier to understand when you compare it to other types of student writing, especially reports and stories.

Here Are Five Common Types of Student Writing

1. Essay – From the author’s personal point of view.

2. Report – Informational, fact-based writing, usually based on research.

3. Fiction story – Story from the imagination.

4. Short answer – Usually gives an answer to a specific question; a short answer can be anywhere from one word to possibly a couple of paragraphs; short answer questions are often comprehension questions.

5. Poetry – Artistic use of language.

There are Many Different Kinds of Essays

Here are just a few types of essays: Narrative essay, personal narrative essay, cause and effect essay, descriptive essay, compare and contrast essay, argumentative essay, definition essay, five-paragraph essay, expository essay, evaluation essay, persuasive essay, classification essay, formal essay, informal essay, and personal essay.

What is an Essay?

♦  An essay is written from the author’s personal point of view and is based on the author’s opinions, experiences, analysis, knowledge, and research.

♦  An essay discusses, explores, describes, or analyzes one subject or topic.

♦  An essay has a single controlling idea expressed in the form of a thesis statement.

♦  An essay is a multi-paragraph piece of writing.

Is an Essay a Story? And Is a Story an Essay?

Let’s take a look:

♦  Personal Narrative Essay – This is a narrative story told from the author’s point of view based on the author’s personal experience. As a rule, a personal narrative essay makes a point or communicates a lesson learned, and as such, may rely on expository structure as much as it relies on story structure.

♦  Fiction Story – This is a narrative story that comes from the author’s imagination. The author creates the story using a plot based story structure and uses clearly defined story elements.

As you can see, these are both stories. One is a true-life story, and one comes from the author’s imagination. Although they are both stories, they are not both essays. Notice that the Fiction Story is not an essay.

About Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay

Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay does teach essay writing. However, when looking above at the Aldous Huxley definition of what an essay is, I think you will find that the writing program greatly improves all of your elementary and middle school students’ writing! If you teach elementary school writing, or if you have struggling middle school writers, be sure to check out the writing curriculum on the home page!


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