When students were writing fictional stories, they looked through their list of ideas and found a seed story to write. However, when they are preparing to write a opinion piece, they look at the message or sometimes reread an entry and look for a sentence that stands out and recaptures what they want someone to know or think. This is their big idea and can become their thesis. A thesis is a statement that someone could argue. For example, "Cats are awesome" can be argued because some people do not like cats. However, "Cats are a type of mammal called a feline" cannot be argued because it scientifically documented that that is what a cat is. This is one way I help students determine if they have a thesis or something else.
First, I reread the entries and lists of ideas I've created so far in this unit. I look for sentences that stand out that might capture what I want a reader to know or think. Students could just underline those sentences and then think about them separately but I chose to make it even more clear by rewriting them on a separate page in the journal. Lastly, I think out loud about wether or not it was a thesis and whether or not it is clear and strong. I mark the ones that are stronger because they might become the main thesis for my opinion piece.
Sometimes, if I'm not sure if a statement is clear and strong enough, I think about how I might support the idea. Do I have some possible reasons to support the opinion? That might tell me if there is enough there to actually prepare a writing piece.
I then provide another possible thesis but ask the students to help me rethink it and come up with alternative ideas that are similar but get at different pieces of the thesis. The statement I suggest is "Kids should exercise more often". After a few minutes of talking with a partner, students come up with, "Parks and places outside are important for children to get exercise", "There should be less video games," and others.
For each new idea, I restate the main idea and explain to students how the focus of the essay changes based on the statement or thesis we prepare our writing on.
On their own, students need to reread entries and lists to identify sentences or phrases that point them to a possible thesis. Then they need to decide if it is strong and clear. If not, they can revise it and come up with a different one. They can also check by think about how they are going to use reasons to support it.
To close, students meet with their partners to share their thesis. They can share the thesis, why they think its strong, and possible how they are going to support their idea with reasons. If their partner wants to share an opinion, they can offer the counter argument which helps the original writing determine if their thesis is strong.