Offer students check lists to help them evaluate their essays

Much of my time as a tutor is spent helping students revise essays they have written.  To aid my students, I have written a check list they can use to analyze the organization of various essays.  Below is such a checklist for an informational essay.  You might find it useful too.Detective with a magnifying glass inspecting a newspaper.

[ ]  Is a thesis (an overall topic sentence for the whole essay) included at the end of the introduction (usually at the end of the first paragraph)?  

[ ]  If there is no thesis, write one.  This declarative sentence should tell the reader what you will prove in the rest of the essay.

[ ]  Is the thesis repeated or paraphrased in the subtopic sentence (usually the first sentence) of each body paragraph?

[ ]  If the thesis is not repeated in the subtopic sentences, repeat it.  Or if such a sentence is missing, write one.

[ ]  Does each subtopic sentence break down the thesis idea into reasons, examples, or parts?

[ ]  If not, identify how you are breaking down the thesis in each body paragraph. 

[ ]  Do the details in each paragraph support the subtopic sentence for that paragraph and support the thesis?  Delete those which do not.  Write details that do.

[ ]  In the introduction, do the sentences leading up to the thesis tell the reader the broad topic of your essay?  If they don’t, make them.

[ ]  In the conclusion, is the thesis broadly repeated?  It should be.

[ ]  Does the conclusion provide a satisfying ending.  It might look to the future of the thesis claim, or give an anecdote, or elaborate on one of the supporting ideas, but it should not include information that has not already been stated in the body.

I find that check lists like this one offer students independence and save me time.  Students learn to repair their essays’ shortcomings–at least some of them–without a teacher’s help.

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