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By Yerni Miss Endang Polly

How do you help your students write their essays? How do you combine reading and writing to help the students write essay? Here are some information summarized from Vacca and Vacca (1999:283-291). Hope it is helpful.

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While exploratory and journal writing are informal, essay writing is more formal and finished. When reading and writing essay are combined, the students have to think more deeply to analyze and synthesize ideas from several sources of information. They also need to consider the rhetorical context, including the purpose, audience, form of writing, and the writer’s stance towards the topic. These three characteristics of essay writing make it an effective learning tool:

  • The primary focus is on content exploration and synthesis.
  • Students read more than a single text source.
  • Students are engaged in the writing process.

With this in mind, essay can be written by also considering the following other notes.

  • Create life-like contexts for writing. It is important that when asking the students to write, let them know the aim or purpose of their writing, whether to express their personal belief, to describe, to persuade, to explain, or anything else. By knowing the purpose, they are directed to the ‘audience’ for their writing. It means that creating life-like situations can help the students learn how to produce essay writing that is useful and academic.
  • Discourse forms. There are many forms of writing that students can use to express their ideas. Some of them are letters, journals and diaries, science notes (reports, lab reports), poems, stories, and so forth.
  • Evaluate and grade essays. Once the students’ essays are submitted, the teacher has to evaluate them. This is quite a hard work especially in a large class. The teacher’s evaluation hopefully not only involves correcting students’ errors in mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar), but also mainly on content and organization. It means that their ideas and how the ideas are logically and coherently developed in the papers must be the teacher’s top priority to evaluate. There are two types of evaluation. First is formative evaluation, which refers to teacher’s guiding and channeling feedback as the students progress with their drafts. Second is summative evaluation, which refers to teacher’s guiding and channeling feedback during post-writing stage. It takes place after the students share their final products to each other. The summative evaluation must be holistic in nature in the sense that the evaluation covers the overall impression related to how successful the writing communicates a message to its audience. Primary trait scoring is one type of holistic measure in which the teacher evaluates how well the students completed certain tasks. It has some characteristics, such as (1) the accuracy of content, (2) the arrangement of ideas which must be logic and coherent, and (3) the occurrence of convincing and persuasive statement to the audience. Based on these characteristics, the teacher can develop a rubric (a scoring guide) to distinguish high-quality from low-quality compositions. Other holistic scoring procedures that can be used are analytical scales and checklist.

What is your experience? Wish you do your best.  


Vacca, Richard T. and Jo Anne L. Vacca. (1999). Content Area Reading. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.  

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