Teaching how to go from Text, to Outline, to Essay

Having taught your students how to PROPERLY EMBED QUOTATIONS it’s now time to jump into the actual process of writing an essay.  There are a number of ways to demonstrate this process.  The most helpful of which is to give students a clear exemplar of the essay writing process.

A Step by Step guide to Essay Writing

Writing an essay can be broken down into four clear parts:

  1. Choosing a Main Topic that interests you
  2. Developing your Thesis
  3. Planning your Essay
  4. Writing your Essay

This article will explore the specific steps in detail, and demonstrate how students can fluidly move from one to the next.

Wage Jar

First things First: The Source Text

Before students begin writing an essay they need to know what they will be basing their essay on.  You may want to assign a CLASS TEXT or you may wish to let them use personal choice texts taught through LITERATURE CIRCLES.

This exemplar will be based around the clip Adam Ruins Everything: Why You Should Tell Coworkers Your Salery

Step One: Choose a Main Topic that interests you

Ideally your students will have a number of topics to select from.  The topics should relate to the specific themes of the text, rater than the content.  The text should be used to support the students’ understanding of their themes.

For this exemplar, a Main Topic will be given to students:

It’s important to share your salary information with your co-workers.

All students will have an opportunity to focus that Main Topic into a specific thesis.

Once you have provided students with this information, they should be given the opportunity to view the source text.

Step Two: Develop your Thesis

To shape your essay’s thesis, you must add a FOCUS to your main topic.  This focus answers the SO WHAT question, illustrating why a reader should be interested in your main topic.

WRITER:          It’s important to share your salary information with your co-workers.
READER:          So what?
WRITER:          By doing that one can create a more productive workforce through improved mental health.

Thesis Example:

By sharing salary information with coworkers one can create a more productive workforce through improved mental health

Step Three: Plan your Essay

Having looked at why it’s important to avoid FIVE PARAGRAPH HAMBURGER ESSAYS you know that it’s important to create a framework that allows students to succeed through meaningful essay constructions.

While they will still come up with three topics that support their thesis, and two to three subtopics for each of those, they should be informed that easy subtopic will be a short paragraph, rather than topics being large, difficult to unpack, paragraphs.

Students should be presented with the following criteria for success:

  • Decide which THREE TOPICS you will use to prove your thesis
  • Ensure that each TOPIC is supported by TWO or THREE subtopics
  • Ensure you can support each SUBTOPIC with a QUOTATION from your text
  • Use the GRAPHIC ORGANIZER sheet to record:
    • Your Main Topic
    • Your Focus
    • Your Thesis
    • Your Three Topics
    • Your Six to Eight Subtopics
    • The RELEVANT and STRONG evidence that supports your subtopics

Play the source text once more, and to allow students an opportunity to constructed their own topics and subtopics based on the central thesis.

The Finished Outline

Once students have their own essay outline, you may provide them with the following exemplar:

Topic 1:                   Increases worker confidence.
Subtopic 1:              Overcome initial discomfort.
Subtopic 2:              Remove silent resentment.
Subtopic 3:              Enhance worker knowledge.

Topic 2:                   Levels the playing field for employees.
Subtopic 1:              Race / Gender glass ceiling.
Subtopic 2:              Increase personal wages.
Subtopic 3:

Topic 3:                   Empowers workers.
Subtopic 1:              Removes power from the boss.
Subtopic 2:              Transfers power to the workers.
Subtopic 3:

Each subtopic should be supported with one EMBEDDED QUOTATION.  As such, you should play the source text one final time, allowing students to select specific quotations that they can use as supporting evidence.

Sample Quotations

If students are having trouble selecting supporting quotations, you may provide them with the following list:

Being public with your salary actually benefits you.

Even if it’s legal, it makes me really uncomfortable.

Americans have an enormous taboo against talking about money.  Most would rather discuss their sex lives than their salaries

All that taboo does is take power away from the employee and give it to the company

If people know how much money I make, they’ll resent me

I make eighty-five thousand a year.
You dickhead.  You should make less money.

I make eighty-five thousand a year.
You dickhead.  I should make more money.

Bosses like Benny love it when you keep your salary a secret because it tilts pay negotiations in their favour.  It’s a concept called information Asymmetry.  If you don’t know what the going rate is, it’s easier for the company to rip you off … and this perpetuates the pay gap.

African American women only get paid 64 cents for every dollar the average white guy makes.

When you let these guys stop you from doing that you push your own wages down, which means your spending more years of your life slaving away in a job that doesn’t pay you what you’re really worth.

Yes, yes, share your salary with the world.  Negotiate for better wages. 

You can achieve information symmetry.  Knowledge is power.

Step Four: Write your Essay

Once students have fully formed their own outline, they should be informed about the three main parts of an essay:

  • The introduction paragraph
  • The body paragraphs (6 to 9)
  • The conclusion paragraph

The information below clarifies the purpose, importance, and structure for each of those three sections.


  • Provides a strong setup that grabs the reader’s attention and shows them why they should be interested in your ideas.
  • Your thesis statement must be included in your introductory paragraph. It should be one clear sentence that will be proved by each of the body paragraphs.
  • Should not contain quotations.

Body Paragraphs

  • Your body paragraphs must support your SUBTOPICS
  • Each subtopic must be supported by at least ONE embedded quotation from your text
  • Each body paragraph must DIRECTLY RELATE to the essay’s thesis
  • Your body paragraphs should SMOOTHLY lead into the next paragraph
  • Ensure that you are not SUMMARIZING your text. Your text exists to SUPPORT and PROVE your points.


  • Your conclusion must restate the focus of your essay
  • Your conclusion SHOULD NOT restate your thesis, word for word
  • Strong final points should work to persuade the reader that your thesis is correct
  • Ensure you do not use “in conclusion” or similar terms to transition to this paragraph

At this point students should be encouraged to write one body paragraph.  This will be used in the next class for specific descriptive feedback.

The Final Essay

Students should be provided with a copy of the exemplar essay so they have a strong understanding of style and form, while also being offered a direct example of how essay outlines lead to essays.

Students should use highlighters to match quotations to essay outline subtopics as they read through the final essay:

Empowerment through Information Symmetry

The workplace has become a battleground between boss and worker.  This fight has negatively impacted the lives of those without power: the workers.  However, by sharing salary information with coworkers one can create a more productive workforce through improved mental health.  Positive impacts will be evident through increased worker confidence, a leveling of the employee playing field, and through the empowerment of all workers.

Worker confidence will be improved through the overcoming of discomfort.  Many, “Americans have a…taboo against talking about money” (TruTVnetwork, 2015).  This leads them to feel uncomfortable in the workplace, because there is a silencing of information.  However, by opening up about one’s salary, they will be overcoming a real fear.  Those who previously felt, “really uncomfortable”, now know that things they once worried over can be easily overcome.  This feeling of self-assurance will transfer to all aspects of their professional career.

Additionally, with the workers confidence increasing, the muted conversation on ones salary will actually be heard.  People “would rather discuss their sex lives than their salaries”, leading to resentment from the unknown.  However, when “people know how much [one] makes [they will not think the employee is the] dickhead”, instead they will focus their anger on the boss, feeling that they “should make more money”.

Enhancing worker knowledge will also help to increase worker confidence as “all that taboo does is take power away from the employee and give it to the company”.  This forces the worker to not have proper knowledge of what their self-worth actually is.  If salaries are shared with one another in the workplace, one will be able to “achieve information symmetry [as] knowledge is power”.

Improved mental health will also be created through a leveling of the employee playing field.  Once the workers feel comfortable sharing salaries they will be empowered to tell their boss when they feel they are being discriminated against.  As “African American women only get paid sixty-four cents for every dollar the average white guy makes”, the practice of racism and discrimination that occurs in the workplace will be limited.  The individual knowledge will allow one to step up for themselves, creating equality in their professional life.

By increasing information symmetry one can increase their own wages.  The taboo against sharing wages “take[s] power away from the employee and give[s] it to the company”.  If the employee knows what others are making, they will increase their own wages, as the process of “being public with [one’s] salary actually benefits [themselves]”.

When workers feel empowered, their mental health level will rise.  The boss will no longer be able to make them feel uncomfortable in the workplace.  It’s important to know that “bosses … love it when you keep your salary a secret because it tilts pay negotiations in their favour”.  By being honest with coworkers you can take the boss’ power away from them in the fight for equal wages.  If workers do not fight for themselves their bosses will “stop [them] from doing [better for themselves] and push [their] own wage[s] down”.  This is problematic as it will lead to one, “spend[ing] more years of [their] life slaving away in a job that doesn’t pay [them] what they are really worth”.

Finally one will have control of their own power, and their own future.  By publicly announcing your worth one is not treating others in a way that should be seen as “taboo”.  Instead, that act encourages everyone to “negotiate for better wages”.  In this process one will find their increased agency over their own lives giving them the power to control their own professional future, leading to strengthened roles within the workforce.

Through the new sense of self the employee will embody, one can rise tall on a playing field, free from the constraints of gendered and racialized glass ceilings.  They will also have the strength of will to overcome adversity, and additional challenges that meet them.  Finally, the agency they have over their own lives will point them in the direction of personal fulfillment, allowing them to reach their true potential as productive, healthy, workers rather than simply feeling like cogs in the machine.

Work Cited
TruTVnetwork. “Adam Ruins Everything – Why You Should Tell Coworkers Your Salary.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.

What’s Next?

By this point students have learned how to construct essay outlines.  They have been given a strong example of a completed essay, as well as a related essay.  They should also have written one body paragraph of their own.  Next, we will look at how to use DIGITAL EDITING AND REVISION to perfect a student’s work, before fully releasing control, allowing them to write their final paper.

Navigate the Essay Unit

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