5 Strategies for Secondary School Students to Developing Great Essay Writing Skills

Writing essays can be a dreaded task for many students, especially as it can feel overwhelming not knowing where to start. However, with essay writing being an important area for students to master to achieve academic success, it’s important they take the time to develop these complex skills. Here’s five strategies that secondary school students can do to help develop and improve their writing skills so they can get the grades they deserve!

  1. Put In The Time Practicing

With most skills, the only way to get better is by constant and repetitive practice. That’s why the best way students can start developing their essay writing skills is to simply practice writing them on a regular basis. Not only is the act of writing essays helpful in regards to getting used to the writing process, format of the essay and being able to break down the question- they can also learn from their mistakes and go back through to identify weaker areas they need to work on. For example, they may not be good at introducing their essays or find it difficult to have two counter arguments within the main body of the essay. Even though it may seem tricky to motivate your students to write essays often, as they improve, they will find it much easier to write clearly and concisely.

  1. Always Have A Clear Essay Outline Before Writing

Having an effective approach to writing an essay is just as important as the writing process itself. Even if students are really good at writing, if they don’t have a clear structure, a convincing argument and conduct plenty of research to build up their essay, then it’s likely they won’t achieve a great grade. That’s why it’s so important for students to work on mastering the key activities involved before writing as this will help them write a strong piece of work. We recommend starting with the essay question and building up a clear outline from here. All of this should be done in detail before any of the essay is written.

Building An Essay Outline

If there is a question involved in the assignment- it’s important to firstly break it down and understand exactly what is being asked. Write down and develop key ideas with references to back them up, other notes and how specifically you would like to answer the question. Be clear on the following:

  • What is the viewpoint/stance I am going to take throughout this essay?
  • What am I trying to convince the reader of?
  • What do I want to say, and what evidence can I use to back it up?
  • How can I provide a counter argument?

Answering these questions will help students find a clear focus and thesis which can often be the difference between a good and a great essay. Once students have a clear focus, they can start building up their essay outline. Students should aim to stick closely to their detailed structure when they start writing. Here are a few helpful resources for understanding what’s included in an essay outline.

Basic Essay Structure

Essay Planning

  1. Read Work Aloud

Another great strategy for students developing essay writing skills is for them to take the time to read their essays aloud. Whether this is mid draft or once they’ve finished- it’s an excellent way for them to listen to the flow of their writing as well as to spot any spelling and grammar mistakes. Even though this may seem like an overly simple technique, it’s in fact very effective and will really help students identify areas of their essay that aren’t strong or need a bit more work.

4. Research And Apply Helpful Essay Writing Strategies

Lots of effective essay writing strategies such as how to write a solid introduction, how to research relevant sources and what should and shouldn’t be included in a conclusion aren’t always obvious to students. It’s crucial students take the time to really understand what an essay is trying to achieve and read up on helpful writing strategies that they’re able to apply to their own work. Here’s some useful resources students can use to get started.

5. Brush Up On Grammar And Punctuation

Finally, another strategy for students trying to develop their essay writing skills is for them to take some time to brush up on their grammar and punctuation. Students can lose lots of marks for poor grammar and bad punctuation, which is frustrating as it’s such a simple area that can be worked on easily. For a clear, easy-to-understand pocket grammar book, John Seely’s Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation is extremely helpful. Alternatively, the Bitesize website has lots of excellent resources for students to practice their grammar skills.