Teaching Thesis Statements Made Easy
Essays without thesis statements are easy to grade: simply write an ‘F’ at the top of the paper, laugh, and shuffle up the next paper. Unfortunately, not teaching thesis statements is the sign of a really bad English teacher.
A Thesis Statement Tale of Woe
On my way out the door, I noticed all the English teachers were busily grading essays. “Hey, Bob,” I shouted as I stumbled into his classroom, “Not done with those essays yet? I finished mine an hour ago.”
“How’d you grade them so fast?” he asked.
“It’s simple,” I responded, “I didn’t teach my students about writing thesis statements, so grading their essays was easy. I just gave them all F’s. While you guys waste your time teaching thesis statements and then having to actually grade their essays, we watch movies.”
“So, none of your students know anything about writing a thesis statement?”
“You’re a disgrace!” Bob shouted. He moved toward me, stapler in hand.
Next thing I remember, I was surrounded by angry tax-payers. Angry tax-payer #1 shouted, “Get up you thief! Our tax dollars pay your salary and you’re supposed to teach the children of this great state how to write a thesis statement. I suggest you start teaching thesis statements tomorrow morning, or you’ll pay dearly!” The angry tax-payer clubbed me with a ruler and knocked me out again. When I awoke, I saw lesson ideas on my desk titled “Writing a Thesis Statement.”
I share it with you
Common Core Standards
Teaching thesis statements satisfies the following common core standards and establishes the basis for teaching all the common core standards in writing for all grade levels.
- W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- W.9-10.1a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
- W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings); graphics (e.g., figures, tables); and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Ideas for Teaching Thesis Statements
Teaching thesis statements involves teaching what a thesis statement is and then conducting reinforcement activities. Try the following. For an excellent description of thesis statements with examples you could use to teach your class, just click on the link.
- A quick review of how to write a thesis statement may help.
- Have students create thesis statements on a slice of paper. Collect the paper and read them to the class. Have the class vote on them.
- Do the same activity, but use individualized white boards to record judgments.
- Read thesis statements anonymously. The ones that do not qualify get tossed in the garbage (visualizing what happens to bad thesis statements is powerful). Give students chances to rewrite the thesis statement until they get it right.
- Write random topics on the board and have groups of students brainstorm good thesis statements.
- Require students get thesis statements approved before writing an essay.
Evaluating Thesis Statements
1. Have you answered the question or merely restated it? The following examples are based on this question: Does Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminish the credibility of his love for Juliet?
- Good example: Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminish the credibility of his love for Juliet.
- Bad example: This essay examines whether or not Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminishes his love for Juliet.
2. Have you tried to argue both sides of the case? It is important to acknowledge the other side and address the other position. That does not, however, excuse you from choosing a side.
- Good example: Juliet was not the first woman to capture Romeo’s fancy; she was, however, the one who affected him the most.
- Bad example: Romeo loved Juliet with all his heart, but he loved Rosaline too; It could be argued they were both his favorite.
3. Have you prejudged the issue by using loaded language? Immature writers manipulate readers through emotionally-charged language.
- Bad example: Immature, whiny, male-pig Romeo, a male harlot, ruins precious Juliet whom he loved no more than Rosaline.
I’ve taken these lesson plans and added notes, graphic organizers, and more lesson options to create what I consider an invaluable resource for middle school and high school teachers. It’s only $5.95.
It includes 10 lesson plans aligned to common core standards, notes, and over 15 assignments with answer keys. All you need to do is print out each assignment, make copies, and pass them out. Here’s a Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan to give you an idea of what the paragraph teaching guide has to offer.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to make your own handouts and assignments that took me weeks to make and years to perfect.