How to write a “For and Against“ essay
Teaching students to write academic texts is present in all types of curriculum. Why is essay writing so important? A lot of universities include the essay writing skill in the admission exams, it is an inseparable part of internationally recognized exams (IELTS, TOEFL), etc.
So, today we’ll look at:
- The structure of writing a “For and Against essay”.
- Sample essays.
- Language to use in the essays.
“For and Against” essay is basically a “pros and cons essay/advantages and disadvantages essay” where students need to talk about the arguments from both sides and write a summary. The structure is the following:
- Introduction — saying what the topic is about, highlighting the current views on the topic (without stating your opinion).
- Body Argument(s) in favour — providing reasons, examples, facts.
- Body Argument(s) against — providing reasons, examples, facts.
- Conclusion — stating your opinion either directly or indirectly and providing a balanced view of the topic.
This is what the simplest version looks like. However, depending on the level of language competency of your students you can choose to ask them to provide 2/3 arguments for each body paragraph.
In the input session, when presenting the structure of the essay, it’s best to work on sample essays that can easily be found on the Internet. I have been using this one and it has been very illuminating for the students. Working on sample essays gives students a chance to grasp the general point and not to get confused when working on the hometask.
It is a good idea to write a short sample essay in class as well, on the topic of your choice (in my classroom the students are always writing the first piece in pairs to help each other and generate ideas for speculation), so that you can monitor and see how confident the students feel about the new material.
The recent topic I’ve used has been; “Social websites — good or evil.” Below, we’re going to look at some essays my students have come up with together with the feedback they’ve received. The sample you’ll see were the first drafts of the essay.
Write a “For and Against” essay on the following topic: “Social websites — good or evil”.
You can see the feedback below.
The basic idea of providing feedback here is to try to guide the student to correct their mistakes themselves rather than provide them with the answers. It helps them to better assimilate the material.
As you can see from the essay above, the student had some issues with applying the correct structure together with some language errors. The next step is to work on the second draft and try to improve it following the comments and referring to the background information presented during the class.
You can see the feedback below:
As you can see, this essay was much better formulated, most of the comments have to do with the language errors. The task for the second draft is the same — improve it based on the comments.
Another important step in teaching students to write effective essays is to teach them some chunks to use in their writing to sound more sophisticated, relevant and interesting. It is very important to teach them to use linking words and phrases to connect ideas with each other (especially with weaker students) if we want them to develop cohesive and coherent written speech rather than simple sentences separated by fullstops.
Here are some phrases that I’ve been using with my students.
Finally, let’s look at some tips I’ve been sharing with my students as a summary of what they should/shouldn’t do when writing essays.
Paraphrase the title of the essay, don’t copy it as it is in the Introduction.
Use linking words to indicate the beginning of the paragraphs and to show the transition between ideas.
Provide examples/facts for each argument/counter-argument you mention in the body paragraph.
Summarize the essay by showing a balanced view rather than a subjective opinion, rely on the facts covered in the body paragraphs.
Use a formal/semi-formal tone of writing.
Follow the plagiarism rules, paraphrase the information you find on your research.
- Don’t exceed the word count.
- Don’t repeat the same idea over and over again. It makes the text redundant.
- Don’t use the same linking words/phrases, use synonyms.
- Don’t copy paste sentences/paragraphs from the Internet, it’s plagiarism.
Finally, here is a Checklist I’ve been sharing with my students to go over, once they’ve finished writing. It does help to have them look back at their essay and correct it if needed.