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ESL Opinion Essay Topics

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

This lesson describes instructional strategies to use as you teach your students about the essay writing process. Then we will look at a variety of opinion essay prompts to pique your students' interest.

Essay Writing With ESL Students

Remember the first time you ever had to write an essay. Recall the steps you took for arguing your opinion. Now, imagine that you were expected to write that essay in another language you were just learning! You would have needed the process simplified quite a bit.

Looking at it from this perspective, it's easy to understand why essay writing can be overwhelming for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. The process becomes even more frustrating if topics are unfamiliar or difficult for students to comprehend. In this lesson, we will go over strategies for teaching essay writing to ESL students and then look at topics to get them started on some opinion pieces.

Teaching Essay Writing: Strategies

Before having your ESL students delve into essay writing, it's important to thoroughly teach the essay writing process to ensure that your students feel comfortable completing the process on their own.

Teaching Essay Structure

First things first; teach your ESL students how an essay should be structured. Start by introducing students to the traditional five-paragraph essay structure.

  • 1st paragraph: The introduction, which lets readers know what the essay will be about
  • 2nd-4th paragraphs: The body paragraphs, which provide arguments and evidence to support the main point of the essay
  • 5th paragraph: The conclusion, which summarizes the body paragraphs and reiterates the main point of the essay

This allows students to see the big picture while writing an essay. Display a graphic organizer or anchor chart for students to refer to when needed.

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Consider going through each step of the essay writing process (outline, introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion) in depth, with plenty of modeling and whole group/small group hands-on practice. The I do/we do/you do model gives students a chance to first see how each step is completed, and then practice with peers before moving on to work independently.

  1. Model how to complete the essay one step at a time using plenty of examples. Check for comprehension by inviting students to comment or ask questions.
  2. Have students work with small groups or partners to complete sections of essays while you offer assistance and guidance.
  3. Gradually reduce your input and allow students to work independently within their groups while you observe.
  4. Once students show their understanding, allow them to complete essay writing activities independently.

Hands-on Practice

Once students are writing their own essays, be sure they understand the smaller elements involved. Can they write a thesis statement? Can they provide supporting details? Do they know how to prove their point? Help students master these basics skills by providing plenty of practice.

  • Dissect components of paragraphs and essays together.
  • Complete graphic organizers that organize the main point and subtopics of student-chosen themes.
  • Go over the steps to creating an effective thesis and effective topic sentences from their themes.
  • Have student peers edit each other's work.
  • Allow your students to participate in creating essay rubrics so they can understand the grading process.

Opinion Essay Topics

When your ESL students are ready for independent essay writing, it's time to offer some interesting opinion topics to get their creative juices flowing. To respect different cultural and religious beliefs when introducing topics, be flexible with your students. For each of the following topics, have your students explain their reasoning.

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