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Formerly an essay was just that--an essay. In these days of New Learning Standards there are multiple types of essays, with each type having unique characteristics. There are some strategies that remain constant for all types while there are some strategies that may be used to address each different type more effectively.

The diagram below names and differentiates these essays. You will note that the chart is sized to fit on one page and provides colored columns so that it might be duplicated for each of your students as a type of study guide.


The essay strategies provide a structure/outline to aid in producing written communication. The graphic organizers differentiate and specify where the specific pieces of information should fall for each type of essay. Some elements are found in more than one type of essay resulting in confusion for the students as what to include where. The graphic organizers and step-by-step instructions provide a clear “road map” for this process.


The use for an Essay is to structure a lengthier written product. Please see the chart at the beginning of this web page to select a specific type of essay for your purpose.

Please note: Any of these essays, when used appropriately, may be used as an outline for any type of communication—speech, letter, presentation, display, etc.

Assessment & Differentiation

Written communication is a direct expression of what is going on in a student’s mind. Whatever a student writes tells the reader two things:

  1. What the student knows about the subject of the writing, and
  2. The student’s ease and comfort with expressing his/her words in written form.

As teachers, we must be clear about what we are assessing and then be certain that the students know what we are thinking. If we wish to know what a student knows about science, we should be placing our emphasis on content. If we are more interested in assessing writing form, it may be appropriate to assign a separate grade or feedback on “writing mechanics” in the context of a writing class.

This is a good point for me to stress the importance of using “rubrics” to define any assignment, but most particularly writing assignments. If you have requirements that you introduce one at a time throughout the year then gradually move to an “expected” behavior on every assignment, you might consider posting an evolving list of these requirements with the expectation that they will count on EVERY assignment even if not specified.

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