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Thesis Statement Activities For Teaching

Please note:

This lesson has color-coded graphics with text, which does not copy. To download the full lesson that can be printed and given to students for practice, please download it from my website. http://www.cracktheisat.com/freesamples.html

CONSTRUCT A THESIS STATEMENT
A thesis statement is like a controller for the Xbox 360� or PlayStation 3�. When you are playing a video game, what would happen if the controller was disconnected from the game console? Your character would probably die and you would lose the game! Well, it's the same thing with your thesis statement. If you don't put a thesis statement in your essay, your essay will die, and you will lose your audience. The key to winning in the game of writing is having a well-built thesis statement. You don't need Bob the Builder� to tell you that!
By looking at the writing prompt, the student can spot the cue word, "describing." This tells him that they want him to write in the expository mode.
Then, he looks for the key words he underlined. The prompt tells him to write an essay about his favorite TV show, which is Spongebob Squarepants.
He thinks about three reasons why Spongebob Squarepants TV show is special to him. He comes up with the following three reasons:
1. Spongebob is always getting into trouble.
2. Squidward hates everybody.
3. Bikini bottom is an exciting place to live.
Finally, he begins his thesis statement using the key words taken directly from the prompt.


Now write your own thesis statement about your favorite TV show. Write in the section, "thesis statement" on your Power-Writer� Template. Make sure to: 1. CAPITALIZE at the beginning of the sentence. 2. CAPITALIZE the name of the TV show and underline it. 3. Place a comma (,) after the first reason and a comma (,) after the second reason. 4. Place a period (.) after the last reason.
GIVE ORDERS TO THE SUPERVISOR, YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE
A topic sentence is like a supervisor, who takes orders from the "Big Boss." In this case, the "Big Boss" is the thesis statement. It is the topic sentence's job to guide the reader through the Body Paragraphs of the essay. Since the thesis statement has three main orders, there needs to be three supervisors, or three topic sentences. Topic sentence #1 is in charge of Body Paragraph One. Topic Sentence #2 is in charge of Body Paragraph Two. Topic Sentence #3 is in charge of Body Paragraph Three.
Remember, the student came up with three reasons why Spongebob Squarepants is his favorite TV show.
1. Spongebob is always getting into trouble.
2. Squidward hates everybody.
3. Bikini bottom is an exciting place to live.
Then, he constructed a thesis statement out of those three reasons.


Now he has to create three topic sentences based on the three reasons he gave in his thesis statement.
1. Topic Sentence #1 goes in Body Paragraph One. Everything written in Body Paragraph One has to be about "Spongebob is always getting into trouble."
2. Topic Sentence #2 goes in Body Paragraph Two. Everything written in Body Paragraph Two has to be about "Squidward hates everybody."
3. Topic Sentence #3 goes in Body paragraph Three. Everything written in Body Paragraph Three has to be about "Bikini Bottom is an exciting place to live."

WRITING YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE #1
At the beginning of your sentence, use the transitional words or phrases: First of all, First, or In the first place
When writing your topic sentence for Body Paragraph One, look at the first reason you wrote in your thesis statement.
1. Spongebob is always getting into trouble.
Use key words from the prompt or thesis statement to write the first part of your topic sentence.
Use the first reason you listed in your thesis state ment.


WRITING YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE #2
At the beginning of your sentence, use the transitional words or phrases: Secondly, Next, or Equally important
When writing your topic sentence for Body Paragraph Two, look at the second reason you wrote in your thesis statement.
2. Squidward hates everybody.
Use key words from the prompt or thesis statement to write the first part of your topic sentence.
Use the second reason you listed in your thesis statement.

WRITING YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE #3
At the beginning of your sentence, use the transitional words or phrases: Lastly or Finally
When writing your topic sentence for Body Paragraph Three, look at the third reason you wrote in your thesis statement.
3. Bikini bottom is an exciting place to live.
Use key words from the prompt or thesis statement to write the first part of your topic sentence.
Use the third reason you listed in your thesis statement.

Now write your own three topic sentences for Body Paragraphs One, Two, and Three. Write in the three sections titled, "Topic Sentence" on your Power-Writer� Template. Make sure to:
1. CAPITALIZE the transitional phrase used at the beginning of the sentence.
2. Use a comma (,) after the transitional phrase.
3. CAPITALIZE the name of the TV show and underline it.
4. Place a period (.) at the end of the sentence.

ABOUT TRANSITIONAL WORDS AND PHRASES
Transitional words and phrases help move your audience through your essay without bumps and bruises. Without them, your sentences will seem choppy and boring. So, use them at the beginning of your sentences to create coherence in your essay. Topic sentences contain transitional phrases so that the reader can move smoothly through each Body Paragraph. Use a comma after each one.

What is it?

A three-activity lesson teaching students what thesis statements are and how to use them effectively in writing Document Based Questions (DBQs) and other history essays.

Rationale

Students asked to write brief essays on historical topics often lack a clear sense that such essays have a distinct structure. That structure varies with the topic the student is asked to address, but it usually consists of three tasks:

  • Using an introductory paragraph to pique interest and state clearly the    essay's answer to the question it is addressing.
  • Using the essay's internal paragraphs to make the case for that answer,    hypothesis, or claim.
  • Using a conclusion to sum up how well the body of the essay has    addressed the question, along with any qualifications.

A clear thesis statement is crucial to managing these tasks. An effective thesis statement responds to all key components of the question posed. It provides an answer, or hypothesis, which the entire essay will support or explain. In a DBQ (Document-Based Question) essay, the thesis must also be one the primary sources can support. Finally, if the thesis is clear enough, it should suggest a structure for the entire essay, one that will deal with all key facets of the question or problem posed.

Description

This lesson is based on the belief that students cannot master an essay component such as the thesis statement in the abstract, but will best learn its nature by studying it in the context of a concrete historical problem. Therefore, the lesson's activities are based on an introductory essay and a set of primary source documents on one historical topic—the Haymarket Square bombing in Chicago in 1886. The Haymarket episode is a dramatic one that should also hold student interest well. A single DBQ on this topic and several alternate thesis statements are then used in three student activities. These illustrate what makes thesis statements effective, as well some common problems or mistakes in writing clear thesis statements. The lesson consists of the following handouts:

  1. A background essay on the Haymarket anarchists
  2. A set of seven primary sources
  3. Three student activity sheets—What a Thesis Statement Is, What a    Thesis Statement Does, Putting the Thesis Statement to Use
  4. Teacher's Answer Key

Teacher Preparation

  1. Ask students to read the one-page background essay provided for this    lesson.
  2. If they are not already familiar with what a thesis statement and a DBQ    essay are, discuss the brief explanation at the end of the background    essay.
  3. Have students study the seven primary sources for this lesson, paying    attention both to the content and the sourcing information for each    source.

In the Classroom

  1. Briefly discuss with students the single DBQ used in all three activities    for the lesson.
  2. Have students complete Activity 1 and Activity 2. In these activities they    will make several choices among alternative thesis statements, all of which    respond to the lesson's DBQ. If they have read the introductory essay and    studied the sources, these activities will not take much time to complete.
  3. Discuss the choices students make for these two activities. The Teacher's    Answer Key sheet for the lesson lists the correct choices and offers    additional ideas to discuss.
  4. Ask students to complete Activity 3 by choosing several sources to use to    back up or qualify one of the thesis statements. Either discuss student    choices in class or ask students to use their notes and their thesis    statement in a brief DBQ essay of their own.

Common Pitfalls

  • In writing history essays, students may think their task is simply to    provide as much detail and information as they can, perhaps to prove how    much they know. If they lack a sense of the overall purpose and structure    of such essays, they will not see the central importance of the thesis    statement within that structure.
  • Students in a hurry often fail to tailor the thesis statement to the exact    details and form of the DBQ or other essay prompt. They need to pay    attention to the question's details, and also to its form (e.g. compare and    contrast, explain and describe, assess the validity, etc.), which can guide    the way they structure their thesis statement and the essay as a whole.
  • Students may view the thesis statement as an absolute claim and may    make sweeping assertions they can't possibly prove without qualification.    They need to see a thesis as a tentative hypothesis, one they should    qualify by referring to primary sources that seem to contradict it.
  • Students need to see that a vague or overly broad thesis statement will    make their task harder, not easier. A specific and divided, or segmented,    thesis will delimit the task more effectively and make it easier for the    student to organize the rest of the essay.

Bibliography 

Averich, Paul. The Haymarket Tragedy. Princeton University Press, 1984.

Burack, Jonathan. "History Unfolding." Four MindSparks DBQ and Essay Writing Programs. Social Studies School Service. This is a series of learning programs/exercises.

Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University. The Dramas of Haymarket.

For more information 

On the Haymarket Anarchists:
See more on this topic elsewhere on our website

On DBQ essays and thesis statements:
Further tips on writing thesis statements from the Indiana University. This list is typical of checklists on this topic, with much good advice, but without the practice activity that will help students apply the advice.

See more on this topic elsewhere on our website.

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