Writing with a clear main idea…what we English teachers preach for kids to do daily. But today I quit preaching and started showing and writing examples of clear thesis statements with them. On day two of our “getting back to the basics/develop the fundamentals” of writing workshop, we focused on answering the prompts we dissected yesterday.
We started class by having the students define “thesis” in their own words. Most of my students intuitively knew that a thesis was the main idea of what they are writing/reading. We added the concept that good thesis statements use sophisticated, nuanced vocabulary to answer any prompt that might be given (and what do we do when there is no prompt), and that a thesis is an arguable opinion (i.e. there could be multiple interpretations and this is the one that I will explore/defend).
We discussed the need as a writer to have a clearly stated thesis–to help the reader, our intended audience, not “lose the plot.” After we defined a thesis, we started to look at examples from student writing as well as teacher generated examples. I pulled in work from last year’s students from the same novel, but different prompts. Then I asked students to look back into the essays they wrote before the winter break, to find what they thought their thesis was, then pass their paper to their neighbor to see if their neighbor identified the same idea. Many students had the wrong ideas highlighted or no ideas highlighted, so when I gave them time to rewrite their thesis statements, ensuring that they answered their prompt, had a clearly stated, sophisticated, arguable opinion, they put pen to paper and worked diligently. They felt they could actually do this.
And that’s a win in my book. The kids may have never had the plot before, but they had found the plot and were not going to let go of a few moments of feeling like they could actually write something good.
“Lost in the Plot” by The Dears