TOOLS FOR SUCCESS: Essay Planning Template

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

7-step template to guide essay planning and writing.



Work through these steps in order. Take a break after a step if need be. The whole process will need 1-2 hours.

ESSAY TOPIC __________________________________________________________________________

STEP 1. PULL APART THE TOPIC. Ask: what is the territory here? What am I being invited to discuss? How can I best focus on these key words?

STEP 2. BRAIN DUMP – Spill all thoughts onto a page: ideas, characters, events, quotes relating to this topic. For an argumentative essay or an issue-based topic, divide thoughts into pros and cons.


STEP 3. CONTENTION – I want to respond to this topic in this way – here is a single statement which captures my main overall response.


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STEP 4. SKELETON – What will be my three or four main points of discussion? These must be big ideas I can explore and explain and demonstrate. These will be my topic sentences. These should all plug into my contention.


I. _____________________________________________________________________________

II. _____________________________________________________________________________

III. _____________________________________________________________________________



STEP 5. INTRODUCTION – Now I can flesh out my contention in a nicely worded paragraph.

For a literature essay I must start with the author and the title. I must flag or refer to my three main ideas (I already have them – my topic sentences). I can use a bit of finesse with expressions like, “in the authors timeless novel” or “The author’s powerful 1960s story….” My introduction should make it obvious what the essay topic was.

For other essays I need to use the key words from the topic. I must flag or refer to my three main ideas (I already have them – my topic sentences). I can use a bit of finesse with expressions like, “over the past 30 years” or “this divisive issue….” My introduction should make it obvious what the essay topic was.


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STEP 6. BODY PARAGRAPH – each of my body paragraphs has the same structure:

· I already have my topic sentence.

· Next, briefly elaborate that idea.

· Then, for literature essays, show how this works in the book through three or more examples. These examples will include short quotes which are knitted into MY sentences.

· For other essays, elaborate and unpack this idea through three or more examples. These examples will include short quotes from my research which are knitted into MY sentences.

· I will end each paragraph with a closing thought which links that discussion back to the topic.

My contention is my lighthouse! Keep looking at it for guidance.

STEP 7. CONCLUSION – I need to:

· Sum up my response to the topic.

· For literature, explain what the author achieves, the impact on the reader

· Connect the book and the topic to its time (when was it written) and place of writing

· For other essays, explain where things are at for now and suggest where things might be going

· Maybe end with a clever final observation or quote that fits


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#Teachers #ToolsForSuccess #Parents

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