Definition: What Is a ‘My Best Friend Essay’?
Write about what you know is sage advice often given to fledgling writers. And what do many of our young students know more about than their trusty sidekick who is a constant presence through thick and thin?
A My Best Friend Essay is exactly what it sounds like; an essay the student writes that is focused on their closest pal’s merits (and otherwise).
However, the My Best Friend Essay is more than just a chance for students to wax lyrical about their BFFs. It is an authentic opportunity for students to hone their composition skills and exercise their creative flair.
All this while talking about one of their favorite things on planet earth – not bad!
How to Structure a My Best Friend Essay
This is an essay. It says so right there in the title! Just how complex the structure of a student’s essay is will depend on essential factors such as age and ability. However, the 5-paragraph essay structure is a perfect framework for this type of composition.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the 5-paragraph essay is that it is easily modified to differentiate for lower or higher ability students by simply adjusting the number of paragraphs. The essay will still contain the same basic elements of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion, regardless of how long it is.
The 5-paragraph (or hamburger) essay is a craft in itself and much too broad a topic to go into at length. If you want more detail on this handy essay template, check out our complete guide here.
Briefly though, in essence, the 5-paragraph essay comprises three parts:
- The Introduction
The opening paragraph will orientate the reader to the topic of the essay, in this case, by introducing the star of the show, the best friend.
- The Body
In the traditional 5-paragraph essay, this makes up three of the five paragraphs. In this type of essay, the student will use these paragraphs to flesh out the main reasons they value their friend, or (at a more advanced level) they will tell a story about them that illustrates why they are the student’s best friend.
- The Conclusion
In the conclusion, the student can sum up why their friend holds the hallowed title of ‘best’. Or, at a higher level, the student can use the final paragraph of their essay to look forward to the future of their relationship with their best friend.
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My Best Friend
While we title this composition ‘an essay’, it can also be approached from another angle, i.e., as a nonfiction story.
While the clearcut essay format may be eminently suitable for younger students, you may wish to revisit this genre with older students, this time with an emphasis on storytelling.
In this creative nonfiction approach, students can merge the essay format with storytelling elements such as character, setting, central conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Constructing their best friend composition in this manner creates an opportunity for students to work on structuring a nonfiction text and, at the same time, offers them a chance to develop their creative flair. To check out our Complete Guide to Narrative Writing, head over here.
My Best Friend in 10 Lines
Another approach particularly well-suited to younger students is the My Best Friend in 10 lines format.
This helps younger students to get writing by giving them a clear target to aim for that makes the planning process easy.
However, you can still introduce the three elements of the 5-paragraph essay here. As students list the points they want to make in their 10 lines, they can be encouraged to group these into introduction, body, and conclusion sections.
For example, a plan might look like this:
A ‘My Best Friend in 10 Lines’ Plan
Line 1: My friend’s name.
Line 2: What she looks like.
Line 3: Where she is from/her family.
Line 4: What friendship means to me.
Line 5: How we met.
Line 6: The kindest thing she has ever done.
Line 7: The funniest thing she has ever done.
Line 8: My absolute favorite thing about her.
Line 9: Restate why she is my best friend.
Line 10: How I see our future together.
To complete their 10-line ode to their friend, the student simply builds proper sentences around each of these (or similar) ideas.
More on Planning a My Best Friend Composition
As we can see in the sample plan above, the planning process is relatively straightforward when the 5-paragraph essay structure serves as a framework. However, for students of a higher ability, we may want to take things up a notch.
An excellent starting point for the student is a good, old-fashioned brainstorming session. Students can list things such as their favorite memories and their friend’s best features.
While younger students may inevitably end up writing something of a hagiography (a biography of a saint!), older students may want to present a more realistic portrait of their ever-present amigo.
Likewise, if the student is undertaking their composition in a narrative nonfiction form, they’ll need to map out the narrative arc of their story at the planning stage.
As with any story, the conflict will serve as the engine of the narrative. However, this conflict does not have to take the form of a problem between the writer and the best friend. After all, this text is more likely to be something of a love letter than a letter of complaint. Rather, the conflict is more likely to take the form of a problem or a challenge faced by the writer and their pal together.
Whether or not the student’s text will take a full-blown story form, true-to-life anecdotes will bring life to the student’s writing. The planning process is the perfect time to dump these onto paper, even if they don’t all make it into the final draft.
How to Start a Best Friend Essay
As with most text types, fiction or nonfiction, the writer will want to grab the reader’s attention from the outset. An effective way of doing this is by using a hook.
How to Hook The Reader
There are many methods available to the student writer to grasp the reader’s attention. While some of these will only be suitable for more advanced students, most of them can be adapted with a bit of effort for our younger writers.
- Start in the Middle of the Action
Technically known as In Medias Res, this technique involves opening the story in the middle of a moment of dramatic tension with the exposition filled in later. This type of wizardry is probably best reserved for the more skilled student writer.
- Make a Bold Promise at the Outset
The promise of a big payoff can certainly catch a reader’s eye and draw them in, but the student-writer must be sure to follow through later in the text. For less experienced students, you may want to offer a writing prompt to help out here. For example,
My best friend Jack is truly one of a kind, but just how special he is wasn’t clear to me until the day a fire broke out in our school.
Students can easily adapt prompts such as this by changing the event mentioned to their own personal circumstances.
- Create a Sense of Intimacy
Another way to grasp the reader’s interest is to create a sense of intimacy right from the start. This can be achieved by addressing the reader directly in a conversational tone. Students should use informal language and approach writing their text as if they were speaking to a close friend – this is perfect for this writing style.
- Open with an Anecdote
Another way to create interest (and a sense of intimacy) is to open with an interesting anecdote about the friend. Students can select an interesting or humorous story to use as a carrot to entice the reader in. In shorter pieces, the student could substitute an exciting or amusing fact for a full-blown anecdote.
- Begin with a Quotation
Quotes are a great way to garner attention. There are many online repositories of inspirational quotes on every topic under the sun where students can find a golden nugget of friendship-based wisdom to open their masterpiece. All they need to do is simply type in keywords such as ‘famous’, ‘quotes’, ‘friendship’ to uncover a smorgasbord of well-articulated wisdom for students to choose from. However, students should make sure the sentiment expressed in their selected quote ties into the type of friendship described in their work.
Working the Body
As we stated earlier in this article, the 5-paragraph essay structure, or the narrative writing arc, lays out a suitable template for the student-writer to work their way through the body of their text. However, it’s worth pointing out five areas where a little attention can have a significant impact.
- Get Specific
The devil’s in the details. The more specific the student is in their writing, the more effectively they will communicate with the reader.
Encourage students to be as precise as possible in their descriptions. A thesaurus is an excellent tool to help students find just the right word for the job.
- Vary Sentence Length
Often, emergent writers rely on the same couple of simple sentence structures in their writing. This soon makes the writing monotonous for the reader and, if they continue to read, it is only with effort that they will finish the student’s work.
Variety is not only the spice of life but the spice of good writing too. Encourage students to vary their sentence structures and alternate between long and short sentences to diversify the rhythm of their writing and evoke interest on the part of the reader.
- Use Dialogue
Weaving dialogue into the text is a great way to bring colour and variety to a student’s writing. It also allows the student to practice punctuating dialogue – an important skill, for sure!
Students will need to learn to listen carefully if they are to be able to write how people actually speak. Encouraging them to read their dialogue aloud is an effective way to check if it rings true.
- Incorporate Literary Devices
Though this is undoubtedly a nonfiction text, it has firm roots in creative writing too. Students should incorporate some of the literary techniques and devices that we’d more commonly associate with poetry and fiction writing to add colour, creativity, and imagination to their writing.
For example, for younger students, physical descriptions of their BFF provide the perfect opportunity to introduce similes and hyperbole. Don’t be afraid to get comical here; writing should be fun after all.
Does their friend have a big nose? How big? As big as an elephant’s trunk, perhaps?
Just make sure students avoid being too mean or poke fun at areas too sensitive for their friends.
It is easy to differentiate for different abilities by challenging stronger students to use more complex literary devices in their work. Zoomorphism anyone?
- Evoke the Five Senses
Emergent writers often display a bias towards only using the sense of sight in their descriptions. To bring their writing up a notch, encourage your students to employ all five senses in their writing.
By evoking the sense of hearing, smell, taste, and touch in their work, students will help their writing to come alive in the reader’s imagination.
Wrapping Things Up
In a regular 5-paragraph essay, the concluding paragraph is usually the time to summarize the main arguments and drive home the thesis statement one more time. Obviously, things are a little bit different here.
Of course, students can take the opportunity to revisit and restate the main reasons why their best friend holds the best-friend-championship belt. Still, there is a more artistic way to use their composition’s final paragraph.
Ask students to think about their friendship and where they see it in five, ten, twenty, even forty years.
Undoubtedly, for younger students, in particular, this may be a bit of a challenge, but it can be a fun thought experiment too. Students can pose themselves questions to help, such as:
- Will we be neighbours?
- Will we work together?
- Will our children go to school together? Etc.
Taking a tentative step into the possibilities of the future can make for an impactful ending indeed.
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and university English lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book the Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.