Teaching Essay Structure

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Units/anywhere anytime/teaching essay structure

Ralph Maltese

Teaching Essay Structure

I came across this structure for an argumentative essay (I searched but could not find the original source) and it worked well.  Each argumentative essay could be divided up into

1) Guess What?!—an introduction that grabs the reader by posing a question, often without directly using the interrogative.  “Sixty thousand teenagers were killed on the nation’s highways last year following a prom.” Or “Half the people on death row in the U.S. were found to be innocent because of DNA evidence.”  The implicit “Did you know that…?” is there, and the paragraph continues in that vein

2) Here’s What!---this is the body of the paper, supplying evidence to prove Guess What?!  In literary papers we draw upon both internal (from the literary work itself) and external (from literary criticism).  This part of the paper is evaluated on the quality of its proof.

3) So What!---so many teachers tell their students that the conclusion of an essay is basically a rewriting of the introduction.  How boring!  The conclusion justifies why the reader read this essay in the first place.  The So What! explains why this issue is important, leads to bigger questions, or asks the reader to take an action—write a senator, develop strategies for making prom nights safer, etc.

When my own children were “shopping for colleges,” I asked many college advisors what they thought of Guess What?! Here’s What!, So What! as a structure for college essays.  They all seemed to like it.  One professor said he taught his students that an essay should begin with an “Oooooh.” And end with an “Ahhhhhh.”

I begin this introduction to Guess What?!, Here’s What!, So What! by explaining to my students the concept of schemata.  We have built into our brains, schemata.  We see and hear what we expect to see and hear.  If I hand you a book, and I tell you it is a murder mystery, without opening the cover you have expectations. You expect to read about a murder committed, a list of suspects and perhaps red herrings, and a sleuth like Sherlock Holmes or an investigation.  If, when you begin reading the book, it is about the Smurfs skiing in Alaska, you become confused.  Your schemata has been compromised.  The reason why Guess What?!, Here’s What!, and So What! works is because this structure follows the natural schemata of an argumentative essay.  We expect the first section of the paper to state the problem, hopefully grabbing our interest, followed by a series of arguments and concluding with something we can walk away with.  Examine any editorial essay and see if it does not follow this format.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 December 2010 19:19



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