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Teacher Tips and Answers

Prewriting for Problem-Solution Essays

Before you start writing your essay, you need to think about some problems in your community and ways you could help solve them. These prewriting activities will help you examine a problem, come up with a solution, and gather and organize details before you begin a first draft.

Prewriting to Explore Problems

Consider problems.

Think about problems you have noticed at home, at school, and in your community. List them in the table. When you finish, put a star next to the one you feel strongest about. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

One problem at home is

One problem at school is

One community problem is

I get distracted when I work on my homework.

(Answers will vary.

There’s too much shoving and pushing during recess.

(Answers will vary.)

Rosemont Park is dirty and unsafe.*

(Answers will vary.)

Outline the problem.

Answer the following questions about the problem you will address in your essay. Your answers will help show why the problem is serious and needs a solution. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

  1. What are some examples of the problem?

    There’s trash and litter in the field and play areas. There’s graffiti on the pavilion. The picnic tables are covered in pigeon droppings.

  2. Why is it a problem? Give at least two reasons.

    Kids might get hurt. People have stopped using the park. Kids need a safe place close by where they can play.

  3. How does the problem affect me? Who else is affected?

    My brother cut his hand, and Mom stopped taking us to the park. Other people in the community are affected, too.

  4. What might happen because of this problem?

    The park might get worse and worse until it is closed for being unsafe.

Teaching Tip

If students have trouble answering these questions, encourage them to choose a different topic (problem).

Prewriting to Explore Solutions

Brainstorm solutions.

Brainstorm solutions to your problem. Record each solution that comes to your mind, even if it seems wild or unlikely.

Ways to solve my problem . . .

Write letter to the mayor.

Write letter to the newspaper.

Notify parks department.

Organize a fund-raiser.

Build a new park.

Ask the city to clean it.

Do a school service project.

Plant flowers.

Put in a skate park.

Clean it with friends.

(Answers will vary.)

Evaluate solutions.

Pick your three favorite solutions from the list. Answer questions about each solution. Then choose the best solution to the problem. Make a copy of this Google doc or download a Word template.

Why would the solution work?

Solution 1:

Clean it with friends

We could pick up trash and wipe down the picnic tables. This would make the park cleaner.

Solution 2:

School service project

Lots of helpers could pick up trash and clean picnic tables. Our class could paint a mural.

Solution 3:

Letter to the mayor

The mayor would learn about the problem. She could use her power to get someone to clean it.

What problems or obstacles could get in the way of making the solution work?

Solution 1:

Clean it with friends

The park is too big for us to clean everything. My friends might not want to help.

Solution 2:

School service project

We would need to get permission and set a date. Teachers might not want to do it on a school day.

Solution 3:

Letter to the mayor

The mayor might not read the letter. She might have bigger problems. It could take a long time.

Teaching Tip

Evaluation is a critical-thinking skill that requires students to judge the value or worth of an idea. Consider leading students through the example answers to model the process.

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