As your ESL students become more and more fluent, it’s time to start thinking about practicing more complex forms of writing, such as essays. Essays are a great way for them to refine skills such as organizing information, doing research, and presenting an argument. Here are seven steps for teaching essay writing to ESL students.


Before you get into teaching essay writing, make sure your students have a firm grasp of sentence building fundamentals. Go over how to write simple, compound, and complex sentences. They need to be familiar with these, because they are the building blocks of more complex writing, such as essays. Work on equivalencies by practicing coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and then moving on to preposition and conjunction adverbs. Then make sure they have a clear understanding of sentence connectors and sequencing.


Once you’re confident your students are ready to move on to an essay it’s time for them to choose their topics. “An interesting topic is the best way of helping the student maintain their interest throughout the writing process. Don’t be afraid to suggest topics if they’re struggling to choose one, and pick one you think will get their creative process jump-started. If they choose one that is too broad, help them narrow their focus a bit,” recommends Fernando Horne, ESL teacher at Academized. You might also need to help them shape their topic into an actual stance. They’ll need to form their topic into a thesis, something they will be arguing for in their essay. Have them brainstorm some ideas and draft a rough outline.


This is the section of the essay where the writer needs to get the reader’s attention, and then briefly explain what they will be arguing for. There are a few good ways of piquing a reader’s interest in the introductory paragraph. If it suits the tone of the essay, a joke can be effective at getting the reader’s attention. Or, they could open things with a quotation that is relevant, interesting, and maybe even inspirational. If the student has come across a particularly interesting fact, they could use that to open things up as well.

Explanatory Paragraphs

Since your students are new to essays, it’s best to stick to the basic three paragraphs of explanation. Show them how each of these paragraphs explains one of their points. Begin each one with a sentence that makes a point in support of their thesis. Then explain that point in the rest of the paragraph. Show them how to explain points clearly by breaking things down into short and simple sentences. Be sure they know to support every claim they make with evidence from their research.

Wrapping Up

The conclusion is where your students will reiterate the points they have just explained. Make sure they know not to introduce any new arguments here. The conclusion is all about driving your message home to the reader. The can, however, end with a point that encourages further thinking from the reader. Often a statement looking towards the future is a good way to go.

Try Out These Online Tools

Essay writing involves quite a few steps and several skills. These resources can help your students write, edit, and proofread an essay.

  • StateofWriting & AcademAdvisor: Grammar is something a lot of ESL students struggle with. These grammar resources can help make it more approachable.
  • EssayRoo & BigAssignments: Proofreading is a pain for anyone, but when you’re learning a new language it’s especially tricky. These online proofreading tools, suggested in BigAssignments review, can help.
  • ViaWriting & StudyDemic: These are academic writing guides. Using a writing guide helps to break down the essay writing process and make it simpler.
  • BoomEssays & UKWritings: These are editing tools that have been recommended by SimpleGrad. It’s easy to miss an error or two when you’re editing writing you’ve done in a language you’re still learning, but these tools will help.
  • WritingPopulist & MyWritingWay: Give these writing blogs a read to get some ideas to help improve your students’ essays. Read them to see what has worked for other ESL students.

Driving the Point Home

One very good way to write a convincing essay is to follow the rule of three. Teach your students that people are much better at remembering things when they hear them three times. Some of the most memorable quotes from history are memorable because of the rule of three. I came, I saw, I conquered. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You get the idea. This rule is why you state your points (introduction), explain them in your main body, and then reiterate them in your conclusion.


Writing essays is a great way for your students to learn and refine some more advanced writing skills. Make sure they have a good enough grasp of the basics, then move them on to the fundamentals of essay writing. Use these seven steps to teach your ESL students how to write an essay.

  • Share this post