The Thesis Statement
Lesson 3 of 8
Objective: Students will be able to clearly introduce a claim and preview what is to come by writing a three prong thesis statement.
We reviewed yesterday's material--how a writer can catch the reader's attention.
Let's review--what strategies can a writer use to catch the reader's attention?
Zoe said that we could use a thought-provoking question. Bill reminded us that we could use q vivid description with imagery or figurative language. Andres said that we could use quote. Tanner got excited and reminded us that we shouldn't use anecdotes or exclamatory sentences in a history essay.
Let's review--what's the thesis statement?
It's ONE sentence, a complete sentence, mind you, that clearly lays out what the essay is going to be about. It's a road map that lets the reader know where the writer is taking them. If the writer clearly states where they're taking the reader, there are no road bumps, it's just smooth reading.
I wrote the sample introduction on the topic of the Little Rock Nine, which falls under the rights theme. We'd read an short article about the topic so we all had the same frame of reference. I talked through how I decided what my body paragraphs would be about.
The Little Rock Nine were denied their rights by a number of people. The governor, soldiers, white citizens, and schoolmates all denied them the right to an equal education. Therefore, one of my body paragraphs could be about how the governor violated rights, one body paragraph could be about the soldiers, and the third paragraph could be about the other students.
Remember our formula for the thesis statement?
subject (3) + claim + purpose = thesis statement
governor violated rights, soldiers violated rights, other students violated rights + rights were violated = thesis statement
Just combine that into one sentence, and you've got a thesis. The black students were denied their rights to an equal education by the governor, soldiers, and their own classmates.
Follow the formula and you've got a thesis statement that helps guide your essay. It's like math, but with words.
I asked the students if they thought that their thesis statement would help the reader navigate their essay easily or if their thesis statement would make their reader lost. Every student thought their readers would get lost and maybe end up up in the middle of the desert. Hopefully they have water. If not. . .
So what do we doooooooooooooooooooo? Commence the writing workshop.
One of the biggest problems we've found in the last week, regardless of grade level, is that while students had picked a topic, it didn't relate to the theme of rights and responsibilities. Throughout the lesson, that's what we kept coming back to. What's your topic? Is that a right or a responsibility? Were someone's rights violated? Was someone rights? Who had a responsibility to do what? A lot of the times, they couldn't answer that question. In a group discussion, they were able to get help, not only from me, but also from their peers. They came up with some super awesome ideas that were so awesome I got chills. Quite often, they realized that they needed to do additional research.
One of the great things about having a student teacher is that we can break students up in to more groups to give them more focused instruction, which is what we did today. One on one instruction in a group of twelve is a whole lot more than one on one help in a group of twenty-eight. I know that I am quite fortunate in this regard this year and I do. not. take. it. for. granted. At. all. I'm going to miss her when she leaves in December.
Once we were settled in our groups, I asked for some brave volunteers. They'd have to read their thesis statement as is and let us rip it to shreds. They'd have to be very brave. So very brave. A couple of kids raised their hands, and it was on.
The video in this section shows how I went through the process of identifying three major points in their essay and relating it to the theme of rights and responsibilities to get to the point of writing a thesis statement.
Essentially, I asked students what their topic was and if it was a right or a responsibility. Most students hadn't considered the right/responsibility component, so there were some ruffled feathers.
The next step was to determine
- what rights were given/taken away/violated, etc.
- what responsibilities a certain individual had
and then to write the whole thing as one sentence.
In the above picture, one student wrote about scientists. Why did he choose this topic? It was on the list of approved topics. Through the discussion, we were able to determine that scientists have responsibilities. What responsibilities? The responsibility to not kill people with experiments, to not use something without testing, and to follow the laws of the country. The student then had to take that and write a complete sentence. Bam! Thesis statement.
At least one student in every class wrote about Native American boarding schools. In that case, we determined that rights were violated. How? What were the three ways rights were violated? Through the discussion, each student identified something like the right to speak the native language was taken away, rights to religion were taken away, and rights to live where they wanted to were taken away. Put that in one sentence and boom! Thesis statement. It was much more emphatic when I could slam my hand on a desk at the bam!
And on and on and on. After each thesis statement workshop, I checked in with students and asked them to give me a thumbs up if they felt they could write the thesis on their own, thumbs sideways if they needed help, and thumbs down if they had no idea what to do. I then called on students with sideways or down thumbs to work with.
Throughout the process, I reminded students that they might discover that their whole essay needed to change, that they might need to rewrite whole paragraphs, or relocate sentences within the essay. That's just part of the writing process and part of being a writer.
I did a simple check-in with the students for closure. I used the thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down method. I asked students how they felt about the thesis statement when we started this workshop. Thumbs up meant that they felt great, thumbs sideways meant that they felt iffy about it, and asked this repeatedly throughout the lesson. It was thrilling to see thumbs move from down to sideways to up as the lesson progressed. By the time they left, they felt more confident, and I was confident that they could get their thesis statement written. Bam!
The background for today's lesson image is a screen capture I took from Google maps. Thanks, Google!