Developing Essay Structure

WRITING YOUR ESSAY

Now that have you thought about what to include in your essay, it is important to think about the format you will use to write the essay. It is best to follow the same format each time you practice writing an ATS-W essay. On the day of the exam, you will then only have to worry about coming up with ideas, not about figuring out a way to organize them. The format below incorporates all four areas mentioned in the previous section:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Introduction: *
* Grade Level/Subject Area *
* Importance of GOAL *
* *
* *
* *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Body: *
* Description of First Strategy *
* Explanation of the Effectiveness of the First Strategy *
* *
* *
* *
* *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Body: *
* Description of the Second Strategy *
* Explanation of the Effectiveness of the Second Strategy *
* *
* *
* *
* *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Conclusion: *
* *
* *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


Okay, so let's get to the specifics:

Introduction: Since the introduction will set the tone for your essay, we will take lots of time focusing on it. In the introduction, you should make sure to mention the grade level/subject area you are teaching. You should also make sure to state that the GOAL is important and to then give reasons to back up that statement. Give at least three reasons. If you can think of reasons why the GOAL is important that are particularly relevant to the grade level or subject area that you teach, even better. Look at the following introduction: 

Grade level/subject area: fourth grade, all subjects.
Every effort should be made to include students who have disabilities in the regular classroom. This is required by law, but it should be done for others reasons as well. First, students with disabilities can contribute to their classrooms in important ways. When nondisabled students share learning experiences and develop relationships with students with special needs, they can expand their understanding and appreciation of the diversity they will encounter throughout their lives and be better prepared to work and play well with all kinds of people within and beyond the classroom. Inclusion also benefits students with disabilities. In an inclusive classroom, these students can live as normal a life as possible and not be totally defined by and isolated because of their disability. Through participation in all the activites that occur in a typical elementary classroom, students with special needs have opportunities to learn the same content as their peers and interact with peers in many learning and play situations. This can increase their chances for eventually being able to have full, productive lives in society. 6

Notice how:

1) by saying that "Every effort should be made to include students who have disabilities in the regular classroom" the essay writer is in effect agreeing with the premise that this GOAL is important. 
2) by mentioning that this is required by law, the essay writer is in effect stating that he/she is up on current laws under which the Board of Education is mandated to operate.
3) by giving other reasons besides that it is mandated by law, the essay writer is showing that he/she also has an inherent understanding of why this GOAL is so important. 
4) by giving reasons why it benefits both disabled and nondisabled students, the essay writer is being very thorough with his/her reasons. (It is important to note that in this kind of essay, you must focus primarily on why it benefits the disabled students mentioned in the GOAL. If you also choose to mention how it benefits nondisabled students, all the better because you are enriching your essay. Don't make the mistake, though, of only mentioning how it benefits nondisabled students. Remember what the GOAL is asking you to focus on. In this case, the GOAL is asking you to focus on disabled children. You should therefore make sure that you focus on them.)
5) by giving reasons why inclusion will benefit students both in the here and now and in the future, the essay writer is in effect showing that he/she has thought about both the short term and long term benefits of implementing this GOAL in the classroom.


Now take a look at another introduction where the given GOAL was: "Students will develop career awareness and an understanding of the world of work."

I plan to teach high school English. In this essay, I will discuss how I'd work with a senior English class of "non college-bound" students. Many such students have very limited horizons in terms of thinking about what jobs they'd enjoy and be qualified for upon graduation, so it's especially important to increase their career awareness and understanding of the world of work. An important part of my role would be to help them recognize what their career options might include. I'd try to help them overcome insecurities by prompting them to consider the world of work available to them and working with them to develop skills for different kinds of jobs. Most students respond positively to learning that they believe will help them in their future lives and careers. A wise teacher takes advantage of this motivational factor by integrating into subject matter career-related information and skills that enable students to be successful in the world of work. Such integration is especially important at the senior high school level because of the immediacy of career-related decision making.7


It is especially important to notice here how:

1) The essay writer specifically mentions that he/she will be teaching a senior English class of "non-college-bound" students.
2) The essay writer then tailors the importance of the GOAL to the "non-college-bound" seniors she has mentioned. She mentions that "Many such students have very limited horizons in terms of thinking about what jobs they'd enjoy and be qualified for upon graduation, so it's very important to increase their career awareness and understanding of the world of work." 



Now look at another response given to GOAL 5 (Provide students who have disabilities with effective learning experiences in an inclusive regular education classroom). This was given as an example of a weaker response to the GOAL. Can you guess why?



It is very important to give students who have disabilities strong learning experiences in a regular classroom. Like all students, these students deserve the chance to learn. As a classroom teacher, it will be my responsibility to help all students learn, including students with disabilities. I have had some experiences as a student teacher, and during those experiences I have worked with a few special education students in the classroom. If some students who have special needs were assigned to my classroom, there are a few things that I would do to make sure that those students succeed. Based on my experiences, I have found that certain steps I could take would help both the student and me.8



If you guessed either of the two following reasons, you are correct:

1) The essay writer did not specify a grade level/subject area.
2) Other than saying that "Like all students, these students deserve the chance to learn," the essay writer does not mention why it is important to include disabled students in regular education classrooms. This is not a specific enough reason. It is actually very vague and does not show that the essay writer has an indepth understanding of how to educate students with special needs.

The Body of your Essay: The body of your essay should be two paragraphs long. Each paragraph should describe and explain one of the two strategies you have been asked to write about. These strategies are really the heart of your essay so it is very important to make sure that each of these two paragraphs is written just right. A general rule of thumb that you should keep in mind for these paragraphs is that for every sentence you write to describe your strategy, you should also write another sentence explaining its importance. 

Each paragraphs should be at least six sentences long. Notice the specific function each sentence serves.

The 1st sentence should introduce your strategy: (Do not give any specific steps here; just tell us your strategy. Example: a shared reading lesson, a cooperative group activity involving ...) 

"One strategy I would use to promote ______(mention GOAL here)______ is ___(mention your strategy here)___." 

The 2nd sentence should give an explanation as to why this strategy is important: (Make sure to tailor the importance of the strategy to the GOAL you are trying to achieve.) 

"This strategy is an important one to do with the students because ________________."

The 3rd sentence should describe some aspect of your strategy in detail: (Go directly to the part of the lesson that benefits the GOAL they are asking you to write about.)

"One important component of ____(strategy)____ is ________________________." 
or
"I would start by ____________________________________________________." 

The 4th sentence should explain how this aspect of the strategy will be of educational benefit to the students: (Explain how it is going to help your students with the GOAL.)

"This would allow the students to _____________________________________."

The 5th sentence should describe another aspect of your strategy: 

"After this, I would ________________________________________________."

The 6th sentence sentence should again explain how this aspect will also be of educational benefit to the students: (Make sure not to use the same reason
that you used in the 4th sentence.

"In this way, the students will be able to ______________________________."

You should follow the same format for both paragraphs in the body. If you are writing about your second strategy, you could begin the first sentence of the paragraph like this:

"Another strategy I would use to promote ______(mention GOAL here)______ is ___(mention your second strategy here)___." 

I say that each of these paragraphs should be at least six sentences long in order to ensure that you have all the important information that you need to include in it. You do not want to err on the side of being too brief. If you feel that you need to add an extra sentence or two to a paragraph in order to make an explanation or description complete, by all means, do so. 

By the same token, though, do not make your paragraphs so long that they exceed the attention span of the test evaluator. Test evaluators are looking for paragraphs that are concise and to the point. Just as you should not err on the side of briefness, you should also be careful not to err on the side of excessiveness. MAKE YOUR POINT IN AS SALIENT A MANNER AS POSSIBLE AND THEN MOVE ON. This means that when you talk about specific aspects of your strategy, you should only choose to focus on those aspects that are conducive to achieving your GOAL. (If you are talking about a Shared Reading Lesson, for example, skip the part of how you get children on the rug and go straight into talking about the heart of the lesson.) A general rule of thumb that will help you do this is that your paragraph should not be smaller than six sentences, but it should also not be larger than eight. Keeping to this rule of thumb will force you to only pick the relevant parts of a strategy to focus on. It will keep your essay specific but concise.

Look at the first strategy from the elementary essay taken from New York State Certification Examinations Preparation Guide. (I have numbered parts of the paragraph according to the specific function each serves.) 9

1st) First, I would maintain regular, open communication with the student's special education professionals. 2nd) These professionals could provide me with insights and information about the student's needs and how to adapt classroom activities to address needs and promote learning. 3rd) I would establish a regular time -daily if possible- to meet with the special education teacher to discuss the student's progress and any issues that arise. 4th) This regular reflection would allow us to monitor the student's achievement and make plans to assure continued success. 5th) During the meetings, I would also discuss upcoming events and determine what I (or the special education teacher) can do to modify/adapt instruction to allow the student to participate fully. Sometimes I would also include the student in discussions about his/her progress and activities. 6th) This involvement could help the student develop a sense of ownership and control of his/her learning and show the student that his/her ideas are valued, which could help empower the student to be successful as a learner.
Notice how:

1) By mentioning that he/she would maintain "regular, open communication with the student's special education professionals," the essay writer is in fact using the first TEACHING OBJECTIVE to build up his/her strategy. He/she is working "with others inside and outside the school to facilitate student achievement of desired learning goals in an inclusive classroom." You should also notice how, in this first sentence, the essay writer just mentions in general terms what her strategy is going to be; he/she doesn't go into details as to what it entails. Always save specific details for when you have to talk about the aspects of the strategy.

2) By saying that "These professionals could provide me with insights and information about the student's needs and how to adapt classroom activities...," the essay writer is in essence telling us the importance of this strategy. It is obvious that that this strategy is important because it provides her "with insights and information about the student's needs and how to adapt classroom activities to address needs and promote learning."

3) It is in this third sentence that the writer begins to describe in detail how she would implement this strategy in her classroom. Her strategy, remember, is to maintain regular, open communication with the student's special education professionals. She tells us exactly how she would do that when she mentions that she would try to see the student's special education teacher daily in order "to discuss the progress the student is making and how to handle different issues that may arise." This is very specific in that she mentions that she will do it "daily" and that she would do it for the purpose of discussing "the progress the student is making and how to handle different issues that may arise." 

4) The essay writer then goes on to tell us how this specific aspect of the strategy is going to benefit the inclusion of the special education student in the regular classroom. He/she tells us that it would help "monitor the student's achievement" and allow for the development of plans that would assure the student's "continued success." 

5) In the next two sentences, the writer again describes in detail other ways he/she would maintain regular, open communication with the student's special education professionals. He/she would do this by discussing how to modify instruction in upcoming events in order to allow the student to participate in them as fully as possible. He/she also mentions letting the student sit in on certain discussions. 

6) The last sentence in the paragraph tells the reader how these other aspects of the strategy are going to benefit the inclusion of the special education student in the regular classroom. He/she tells us that "this involvement could help the student develop a sense of ownership and control of his/her learning and show the student that his/her ideas are valued, which could help empower the student to be successful as a learner."
The conclusion of your essay: In the conclusion to your essay, you should just reiterate how each of your strategies will be effective in achieving the GOAL you are writing about. You are trying to connect the strategies you used with the reason you said that these strategies were effective. This should really only be three sentences long. The sentences can be something like this.

1) "By (doing first strategy), I will be able to (reiterate things said in sentences #4 & #6)."

2) "By (doing second strategy), I will be able to reiterate things said in sentences #4 & #6)."
3) "Both these strategies will help ensure that students are able to achieve (GOAL)."



Look at this conclusion to the essay we have been examining. This writer's strategies were 1) maintaining regular, open communication with the student's special education professionals; and 2) familiarizing him/herself with the student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to use it as an important resource for planning instruction. This is how he/she chooses to write the conclusion. ((I have again taken the liberty of numbering parts of this conclusion according to the specific function each serves.)10 


1st) By setting up regular consultations with the special education professional, I will be able to discuss the student's progress and receive valuable insights for facilitating achievement. 2nd) The IEP will provide me with a guide for planning instruction for a particular student and enable me to design activities that meet his/her specific needs. 3rd) Both these strategies will help ensure that this student has an effective learning experience in my classroom.


Developed by Martha Iris Rosas, MS in Education

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