Essay Writing 101 Unit Two: The How-to or Process Essay

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1 Essay Writing 101 Unit Two: The How-to or Process Essay This month you will complete your first assignment: a how-to or process essay. Note the name change (from the course outline). As I prepared this lesson, I came across a definition of the expository essay at Time4Writing.com (1) and the Online Writing Lab (OWL) of Purdue University (2) that is worth mentioning. According to both sources, expository essays are a group of essays that explain a process or idea and include several types of essays you will write this year. One such essay was the how-to or process essay. Therefore, I changed the name of the assignment to avoid any confusion on your part. Before beginning any paper, review the writing process. Refer to the printouts and notes from last month s lessons as needed. First, choose your topic. Here are some things to consider when doing this: What is something that you can easily explain to me or to another person? What is something you can do well? Refer to your list from Lesson 2 or the sample topics at the end of the lesson if you need to. Make a list or create a web to narrow your idea. You must be able to explain your idea in three to five steps. Don t forget to consider your audience. Will your reader already be familiar with the process you are explaining? If yes, what steps do you need to include? If your reader is unfamiliar with the process, what steps would you need to include? Decide how to organize the paper. Perhaps chronological order is best. In this case, you would use words such as first, next, and last as part of the transition between paragraphs. Or perhaps the steps need to be presented in order of importance. Again, the transitional words first, next, and last would work here. Freewrite some ideas to get your juices flowing List your steps Now write the first draft. Begin by writing the thesis statement, the idea you wish to convey. Then begin the paper. As I mentioned in Lesson 3 on Drafting, you may begin at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. But I will explain the steps from the beginning, with the introductory paragraph. Your introductory paragraph should hold the reader s attention and give him or her an idea of what to expect in the paper. It should have a topic sentence related to your thesis statement. Three to five sentences should be sufficient. Here are two examples of introductory paragraphs:

2 Example 1: Dogs get dirty. Many people make a good living washing and grooming dogs. Here is my paper on how to wash dogs. Example 2: Spectators of any dog show have seen well-groomed animals, dogs whose owners have spent many hours and lots of money grooming. But taking a dog to a pet groomer is unnecessary. Washing and grooming a dog at home can be done and is well worth the effort. Which of these introductions is better? Why? I know that many of you are beginning writers. Don t be intimidated by the second example. I ve had lots of practice writing introductions. But in the revision process, rewrite your introduction as many times as you need so that it won t look anything like the first example. The body of the paper should be three to five paragraphs. Each paragraph should explain or show one point or step in the process you are explaining. Using the list you made during the drafting process, choose three to five steps to use as the body of your paper. Then write a good paragraph (at least three sentences) for each step. One of your sentences in each paragraph should be a topic sentence. Let s use the dog washing example again. Perhaps the first step is Gather your supplies. The paragraph could read something like this: First, gather the supplies that will be needed. Of course, the first thing that is needed is a dog. Then choose a shampoo that is safe for dogs. Get a brush and comb that are strong enough to get the tangles out but gentle enough not to hurt the dog s skin. Put a large washtub near a water supply. Don t use the bathtub without permission! Have plenty of old towels handy. Having a hair dryer nearby may be a good idea, as well. And don t forget the dog treats. When writing your paragraph, try to write in the third person whenever possible. That means using the pronouns he/it/she and all of their forms instead of I/you and their forms. However, when explaining how to do something, you may find yourself writing commands (sentences with the subject you implied) from time to time. For this paper, using the second person may be unavoidable. But don t overwork the pronoun you. When writing, vary the length of your sentences. Use some longer sentences. Use a combination of simple and compound sentences. If you ve studied complex sentences, use some of them too! Sentence variety keeps the writing interesting. After you have written three to five paragraphs similar to the one in the example, it is time to write the concluding paragraph. The concluding paragraph should restate your purpose or tie up loose ends. It should not be used to tack on additional information that was not included in the middle paragraphs. It should also be well written in the same style as your introduction. Again, here are two examples to study: Example 1: Washing dogs can be messy, but it is a good business to be in. I want to wash dogs to earn money for my car this summer. Maybe after reading my paper, you agree with me. Example 2: Washing a dog, whether for personal or financial reasons, is not always an easy task, but it can be done with the proper determination and planning. A successful dog

3 groomer will choose the best tools for the job, keep the needs of the dog in mind, and treat the dog with respect. Which conclusion is better? Why? After the first draft is written, put it aside for at least a day. Then, begin the revision and editing process as described in last week s lesson. To aid in this process, refer to the rubric at the end of the lesson. When you have done all you can to your paper and consider it finished, write or type your final draft as described in last week s lesson. The next posting will be the first week in November. At that time, we will learn about biographical essays. If you have any questions or would like feedback as you work on your papers, post your questions on the Schoolhouse Teachers Facebook page, and I will get back to you within 24 hours of receiving the notification. See you next month! (1) (2)

4 Sample Topics for How-to/Process Essays If you already have an idea, use it. Use this list if you re stuck. You may use one of the suggestions as written or use it to get inspired. How to cook/bake (insert food) How to play (insert game or sport) How to study the Bible How to set a table (either informal or formal) How to choose a pet How to sew (insert item)/do needlework/knit/crochet How to draw/paint/sculpt/take excellent photos How to wash a car/mow a lawn/do yard work How a teen can earn money without a job How to build something with Lego How to build something with wood How to build a robot How to show an animal for a 4H project How a teen can volunteer in the community Creative ways to raise money for charity or a mission trip

5 Rubric for Evaluating the Expository Essay Did my paper show or tell how to do something? Did I have a strong introduction? Did I have three to five middle paragraphs? Did I have a strong conclusion? Did I stay on topic? Did I write in the third person whenever possible? Was every sentence necessary? Did I use a combination of simple and compound sentences? Were my sentences different lengths? Did I use proper capitalization and punctuation? Did I use proper grammar? Did I use the easily confused words correctly? (See the lesson on Revising and Editing.) Did I spell everything correctly? Did I give my essay a title?

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