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The Essay…. Students will understand how to unpack an essay question and plan a response. Brainstorming the topic. “The simple gift of friendship enables each of the characters to change. ” Discuss What are the gifts of friendship shown? Specific examples

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the essay

The Essay….

Students will understand how to unpack an essay question and plan a response.

brainstorming the topic
Brainstorming the topic
  • “The simplegift of friendship enables each of the characters to change.” Discuss
  • What are the gifts of friendship shown? Specific examples
  • Are they simple? Why? Why not?
  • Which particular characters were changed?
  • What is the evidence? What were they like previously? Evidence? Why did they need to change?
brainstorming topic
Brainstorming Topic
  • ‘My home is not a place, it is people’

Billy’s journey shows the importance of belonging and acceptance.

  • What are different definitions of home in the novel?
  • What characters link together and create homes?
  • What does belonging and acceptance mean? How does it relate to the novel?
  • Why is it important? How does it link to the message?
  • What topic are you responding to?
  • What is your contention/main argument?

Eg. Steven Herrick’s The Simple Gift highlights…………Each of the characters in Herrick’s novel, Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin are all transformed as a result of……..Ultimately, (message)

forming our contention and identifying our big ideas
Forming our CONTENTION and identifying our ‘BIG IDEAS’

A contention is your main argument about the topic

  • What is your contention for this essay? Form a strong statement about the essay topic
  • What main ideas will you use to support your contention? (Remember you will need a different idea to discuss in each paragraph.) Write down 3-4 reasons that will support your contention.
planning your essay
Planning your essay

You know the basics now:

  • Intro with contention
  • At least 3 body paragraphs (using TEEL),
  • Conclusion

The skill is making it sound good through complex and developed ideas and strong writing! Now you need to think about how you will plan your ideas

body paragraphs planning
Body Paragraphs…Planning

There are a few ways that you can divide up your ideas and develop them.

Most importantly you need to choose ideas that respond to the topic and show your knowledge of the WHOLE novel.

One idea:

You could write a paragraph on each of the main characters and explore their journey of change and how it happened. (What they were like at the beginning, middle and end and the changes seen)

body paragraphs planning1
Body Paragraphs…Planning


You could divide your paragraphs into the ‘simple gifts’ you identified in the novel, and discuss these gifts individually in each paragraph, showing how they impacted each characters.


You could follow the narrative and use each paragraph to represent the beginning,middle, end, message and explore how ideas and characters change as the novel progresses. (be careful not to retell the story)

  • Topic sentence to begin and focus your paragraphs argument
  • Explain and expand your key idea for the paragraph. Provide a few examples and quotes to support each idea. (Like your practice TEEL paragraph. Remember TEEEEEEL!)

Sample Introduction: (Contention) Stephen Herrick’s ‘The Simple Gift’ highlights the importance of friendship in people’s lives. Each of the characters in Herrick’s novel are transformed as a result of the sense of belonging and trust that develops between them. (Supporting ideas)Billy finally gains a sense of belonging and purpose as he helps Old Bill face the past and look forward to the future. His relationship with Old Bill and Caitlin reveals that love and friendship gives meaning to their lives, enabling them to truly enjoy the simple pleasures.

developing arguments
Developing arguments

Topic sentence: Form a clear statement or sentence.

Eg. Old Bill changes as the result of the friendship that he receives from Billy and Caitlin.

Explain/Evidence: How has it changed him? Discuss your first reason

Provide example. Eg. Billy helped him become healthier – less drinking, routine, healthy food (Quotes)

Explain/evidence: Discuss your second reasons. Provide example. Eg. Billy and Caitlin offered friendship and asked nothing in return – they shared their happiness, enabled him to laugh and see joy in life again (Quotes!)

Concluding Sentence: sum up your argument about how friendship is important to Old Bill.

Eg. Through the power of friendship, Old Bill was able to overcome the ‘ghosts of his past’, and start to laugh again.

Repeat the process for each of your points.


Sample Paragraph

Topic sentence:Within ‘The Simple Gift’ Billy’s character gained confidence and respect due to the friendships he developed with people. Reasons for the changes/importance of friendship:Initially Billy was presented as being lonely and quite sad due to the way he was treated by his father and other adults in his life. His father giving him ‘backhanders’ and ‘thundering’ around him resulted in Billy losing trust in the adults in his life. He did not feel safe, loved or supported. Examples:Once Billy met Ernie he realised that are ‘men that don’t boss you around…and know the value of things’. Ernie offered him kindness and compassion, which was new to Billy, giving him ‘a heater that works’ and ‘a cuppa’.


Ernie did not judge him, or ask him questions. Billy’s trust in adults was further developed when he met Old Bill. He was similar to Ernie in that fact that he didn’t ask questions of Billy, but treated him as an equal………(what else could you say about how Old Bill’s friendship changed Billy?)

  • Don’t simply rewrite your contention, or list why friendship is important!
  • Write a strong statement that sums up what Steven Herrick was saying about friendship

In the novel Herrick shows that Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin all change because of friendship.

The above is a very dull statement! How can you improve it?? Remember to include a link to author’s message

Through his characters, Steven Herrick reveals the power friendship has teach us about ourselves and others, whilst simultaneously enabling us to enjoy life and overcome hardships.