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How to Develop Thesis Statements from the Writing Prompt

Dissect a Writing Prompt

How to Dissect an Essay Writing Prompt

Students often struggle with writing effective thesis statements. Often, their difficulties result from failing to know how to dissect the essay writing prompt and formulate their purpose (for informational/explanatory) or point of view (for argumentative) thesis statements from the writing task itself. Following are a few teaching tips and a FREE Download to help your students practice.

First, Dissect the Writing Prompt

1. WHO: Underline any words which identify the audience or the role of the writer.

2. WHAT: Circle any words which identify the topic, context, or purpose of the writing task.

3. HOW: Bracket any words which identify the writing format or the resources to use.

4. DO: Box any words which identify key writing direction words.

Need more details on the WHO, WHAT, HOW, DO strategy. Check out this article.

Next, Write a One-Sentence Thesis Statement

1. It will leave room for the WHO and HOW introduction strategies to flow into the thesis statement as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. An essay introduction doesn’t use a hook or lead, as does a narrative introduction. An essay introduction builds reader interest and understanding of the thesis statement, but keeps a formal essay tone. So, avoid “It was a dark and stormy night.” Need help on teaching essay introduction strategies?

Get the Essay Introduction Strategies FREE Resource:

2. Include the key word from the WHAT of the writing prompt in a declarative statement about that WHAT. In essay that requires the writer to inform the reader, the thesis statement should state your specific purpose for writing. The thesis statement serves as the controlling idea throughout the essay. In an essay that requires the writer to convince the reader, the thesis statement should state your point of view. The thesis statement serves as the argument or claim to be proved throughout the essay.

3. It will directly respond to all components of the specific writing task and nothing beyond that task.

Following are the typical response comments I use to respond to student thesis statements. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. I use the alphanumeric codes to simplify comment insertions.

  • e7 Thesis Statement does not respond to writing prompt. Re-read the writing prompt and dissect according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word).
  • e8 Thesis Statement does not state the purpose of the essay. Dissect the writing prompt, focusing on the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the   resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) to specifically state the purpose of your essay.
  • e9 Thesis Statement does not state the point of view of the essay. Dissect the writing prompt, focusing on to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) to clearly state your specific point of view.
  • e10 Thesis Statement is too general. Get more specific in your thesis statement. Example: There were lots of causes to the Civil War. Revision: Although many issues contributed to problems between the North and the South, the main cause of the Civil War was slavery.
  • e11 Thesis Statement is too specific. Your thesis statement needs to be a bit broader to be able to respond to the demands of the writing prompt. A good thesis statement is like an umbrella-it must cover the whole subject to be effective. Save the specificity for the body paragraphs.
  • e12 Thesis Statement is inconsequential. The thesis statement must state a purpose or point of view that can be meaningfully developed in the essay.
  • Example: People in France really enjoy their cheese. Revision: The French especially enjoy four types of cheeses.
  • e13 Thesis Statement cannot be argued. An essay designed to convince a reader of the author’s specific point of view must provide a thesis statement that is arguable.      Example: Blue is the best color. Revision: Blue is the best color to complement a bright white background.
  • e14 Split Thesis Statement Don’t write a split (divided) thesis. A split thesis includes two purposes or two points of view. Focus on only one purpose of point of view       throughout the essay. It may be necessary to reference or refute another purpose or point of view in the body paragraphs or conclusion.
  • e15 Thesis Statement responds to only part of the writing prompt. Dissect the writing prompt according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word) and include each part.

Interested in more of these Essay e-Comments? Check out this video to get all 438 comments.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

For more thesis statement and essay practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs), 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum.

Check out the FREE Download teaching summary of the WHO, WHAT, HOW, and DO strategy for dissecting writing prompts for display and practice.

Get the Dissecting a Writing Prompt Practice FREE Resource:

 

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How to Use Essay Evidence

Evidence for Essays

Types of Evidence

Whether writing an informational/explanatory or argumentative essay, knowing which evidence appropriately supports the topic sentence of each body paragraph is essential. Teach your students to follow the CARVO guidelines in selecting and using essay evidence.

  • The evidence needs to be Consistent with other evidence within the same source. Evidence needs to have internal validity. In other words, the evidence must fit other evidence presented within the same source.
  • The evidence must be Accurate and unquestionable. Use other sources to double check accuracy. Not all sources are reliable.
  • The evidence has be Relevant. Appropriate evidence must directly relate to the topic. It may only be used when the context of your source matches the context of how you use the evidence in your writing.
  • The evidence has to be Varied and balanced to convince your audience. Provide both quantitative and qualitative data. Use both primary and secondary sources.
  • The evidence has to be Objective and fairly presented. Never use slanted or biased evidence to prove your point. Save the argument or interpretation of the evidence for your analysis of that evidence.

Teaching your students how to select and use evidence is a process. Student writers often fail to consider the importance of their audience in deciding what and how to support their body paragraph topic sentences. You might try this story to help them make the connection:

A friend of yours went on a backpack and saw a UFO hovering over a valley. The spacecraft landed and the aliens came out to greet the earthlings. 

To convince your peers about what your friend experienced, what evidence would they require?

Check out three types of evidence worksheets with answers and a nice wall poster!

Get the Types of Essay Evidence FREE Resource:

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Purchase the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies to get 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. 

“Great step by step worksheets that help students build or reinforce essay writing skills.”

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Michelle Hunter

“A thoroughly comprehensive format to teach writing. Just what I needed.”

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2018 Top 10 Quotes

Top 10 Quotes 2018

2018 Top 10 Quotes

Teachers… How well do you and your students know American culture? Current events? It’s quiz time!

For the last 13 years, Yale Law School librarian Shapiro adds 10 of the most popular and influential American quotes of the year to his collection of more than 12,000 well-known quotations by famous personalities, living or dead featured in his  2006 book, “The Yale Book of Quotations,” a collection of more than 12,000 well-known quotations by famous personalities, living or dead.

Let’s play a simple match game. I’ll provide the quote and the matching options. Now, not all matches will be quote to quoter; some of the matches will match quote to quotee, because some of the 2018 Top Quotes are about someone. You’ll understand as you make your guesses. Answers at bottom, so don’t scroll too far.

I read the Washington Post article, written by Kristine Phillips, who details the complete list, as published Tuesday by the Associated Press:

  1. “Truth isn’t truth.”
  2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.”
  3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to this celeb’s blaming its product Ambien in a tweet.
  4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”
  5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”
  6. ”[I am] not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!”
  7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.”
  8. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.”
  9. “I have just signed your death warrant.”
  10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Elise Viebeck contributed to this article.

BONUS: Who said last year’s top quote: “alternative facts”?

NEED SOME HINTS?

TOP ROW: John McCain, Donald Trump, Larry Nassar, Brett Kavanaugh, David Hogg

BOTTOM ROW: Rudy Giuliani, Kanye West, Roseanne Barr, James Comey, Maxine Waters

*****

ANSWERS

  1. “Truth isn’t truth.” — Rudolph W. Giuliani, interview on “Meet the Press,” Aug. 19.
  2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.” — Brett M. Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on his Supreme Court nomination, Sept. 27.
  3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to Roseanne Barr’s blaming of its product Ambien in explaining a tweet that led ABC to cancel her show, May 30.
  4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” — Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain in a eulogy for her father, Sept. 1.
  5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” — David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, in a CNN interview, Feb. 15.
  6. ”[I am] not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!” — President Trump, in a tweet, Jan. 6.
  7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.” — Kanye West, in a tweet, April 25.
  8. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.” — Former FBI director James B. Comey, in a tweet, May 23.
  9. “I have just signed your death warrant.” — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, addressing former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar upon sentencing him to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault, Jan. 24.
  10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” — Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), in remarks at a rally in Los Angeles, June 23.

BONUS: Kellyanne Conway

*****

The Pennington Publishing Blog is authored by Mark Pennington, English-language arts teacher and reading specialist. Mark’s assessment-based curriculum is featured at https://penningtonpublishing.com/. Each informative article (over 700) includes links and a teaching freebie. Here are three to choose from. Happy New Year! Let’s hope next year’s quotes are more hopeful and positive.

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

Get the Simple Sentence Diagramming FREE Resource:

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

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Simple Sentence Diagramming

Sentence diagramming can be a useful tool to make the abstract components of English grammar more concrete. Most students find that the visual image helps them better understand and remember grammatical terms, the parts of a sentence, and the basic rules of grammar. With practice, writers can use diagramming to diagnose their own grammatical errors and fix them.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

My Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School programs include a simple sentence diagram for each lesson (plus a mentor text, error analysis, practice in the writing context, and a formative assessment). The sentence diagrams are “simple,” because instead of requiring students to construct the entire diagram of a given sentence from scratch (takes too much class time), the simple sentence diagrams provide the drawing (the lines) and the words of the sentence that are not the focus of the grammar lesson.

Check out how much students can learn about grammar with these two simple sentence diagrams from my programs. Both examples focus on adverbs.

Simple Sentence Diagram Examples

Easy

Lesson Focus: An adverb can modify a verb and answer How? An adverb may be placed before or after the verb that it modifies. Modifies means to identify, define, describe, or limit. Examples: Carefully she answered. He walked slowly.

Complete the sentence diagram for this sentence: They happily played video games.

 

 

Compare your diagram to that on the display. Use a different color pen or pencil to place a √ above each correctly placed answer and change any errors.

Answer

 

 

Happily, they played video games. They happily played video games. They played video games happily.

Challenging

Lesson Focus: Today we are studying adverb order. Remember that an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb and can be a word or a phrase. When using more than one adverb to modify the same part of speech, usually place adverbs in this functional order: 1. What degree 2. How 3. Where 4. When. Example: She sings more enthusiastically on the stage each night.

Revise and complete the sentence diagram for this mixed-up sentence: “The track star runs quickly now less.”

 

 

Compare your diagram to that on the display. Use a different color pen or pencil to place a check mark √ above each correctly placed answer and revise any errors.

Answer

 

 

The track star runs less quickly now.

Whether you choose to include simple sentence diagramming as one instructional component of teaching grammar and usage in the reading and writing contexts, the following three 10-minute lessons will help your students better understand how sentences are structured.

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