Posts Tagged ‘teach essay’

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 ESSAYS BUNDLE


For more thesis statement and essay practice, check out the author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. 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.

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Twelve Tips to Teach the Reading-Writing Connection

Educators often talk about the reading-writing connection. Dr. Kate Kinsella of San Francisco State University summarizes the reading-writing connection research as follows:

  • Reading widely and regularly contributes to the development of writing ability.
  • Good writers were read to as children.
  • Increasing reading frequency has a stronger influence on improving writing than does solely increasing writing frequency.
  • Developmental writers must see and analyze multiple effective examples of the various kinds of writing they are being asked to produce (as well as ineffective examples); they cannot, for example, be expected to write successful expository essays if they are primarily reading narrative texts.

Teaching reading and writing strategies concurrently certainly does allow teachers to “kill two birds with one stone.” Now this is not to say that reading or writing instruction should always be taught in tandem. There are certainly important lessons and skill development exclusive to each field. However, the following twelve tips to teach the reading-writing connection will enhance students’ facility in both disciplines.

1. Teach the Author-Reader Relationship

Both reading and writing involve interactive relationships between author and reader. Reading really is about communication between the reader and the author. Now, it’s true that the author is not speaking directly to the reader; however, readers understand best when they pretend that this is so. Unlike reading, writing requires the thinker to generate both sides of the dialog. The writer must create the content and anticipate the reader response. Teaching students to carry on an internal dialog with their anticipated readers, while they write, is vitally important.

Strategy: Write Aloud

2. Teach Prior Knowledge

What people already know is an essential component of good reading and writing. Content knowledge is equally important as is skill acquisition to read and write well. Reading specialists estimate that reading comprehension is a 50-50 interaction. In other words, about half of one’s understanding of the text is what the reader puts into the reading by way of experience and knowledge. However, some disclaimers are important to mention here.  Although prior knowledge is important, it can also be irrelevant, inaccurate, or incomplete which may well confuse readers or misinform writers. Of course, the teacher has the responsibility to fill gaps with appropriate content.

Strategy: KWHL

3. Teach Sensory Descriptions

Both readers and writers make meaning through their sensory experiences. Recognizing sensory references in text improves understanding of detail, allusions, and word choice. Good readers apply all of their senses to the reading to better grasp what and how the author wishes to communicate. They listen to what the author is saying to them. For example, good readers try to feel what the characters feel, visualize the changing settings, and hear how the author uses dialog. Applying the five senses in writing produces memorable “show me,” rather than “tell me” writing.

Strategy: Interactive Reading

4. Teach Genre Characteristics

All reading and writing genres serve their own purposes, follow their own rules, and have their own unique characteristics. Knowing the text structure of each genre helps readers predict and analyze what the author will say and has said. For example, because a reader understands the format and rules of a persuasive essay, the reader knows to look for the thesis in the introduction, knows to look for the evidence that backs up the topic sentence in each body paragraph, and knows to look for the specific strategies that are utilized in the conclusion paragraphs. Writing form is an important component of rhetorical stance. Knowing each genre (domain) also helps writers include the most appropriate support details and evidence. For example, persuasive essays often use a counterpoint argument as evidence.

Strategy: Rhetorical Stance

5. Teach Structural Organization

Readers recognize main idea, anticipate plot development or line of argumentation, make inferences, and draw conclusions based upon the structural characteristics of the reading genre. For example, readers expect  the headline and introductory paragraph(s) of a newspaper article to follow the structural characteristics of that genre. For example, since news articles include Who, What, Where, When, and How at the beginning, the informed reader knows to look for these components. Similarly, writers apply their knowledge of specific structural characteristics for each writing genre. For example, knowing the characteristics of these plot elements: problem, conflict; rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution will help the writer craft a complete narrative.

Strategy: Numerical Hierarchies

6. Teach Problem Solving Strategies

Good readers and writers act like detectives, looking for clues to understand and solve a case. In a persuasive essay, the reader should detect how a thesis is argued, how the variety of evidence is presented, and if the conclusions are justified in light of the evidence. In a narrative, the writer needs to clearly state the basic problem of the story and how that problem leads to a conflict. Through the elements of plot, the writer must deal with this conflict and resolve it to the reader’s satisfaction.

Strategy: Evidence

7. Teach Coherency and Unity

For both reading and writing, the object is to make sense of the content. Recognizing the author’s rhetorical organization, grammatical patterns, transition words, and use of writing techniques such as repetition, parallelism, and summary will facilitate comprehension. Knowing how the author communicates helps the reader understand what is being communicated. Applying an organizational pattern appropriate to the writing content and effective writing techniques will help the reader understand the content of the communication. Writing unity refers to how well sentences and paragraphs stay focused on the topic. For example, readers need to train themselves to look for irrelevant (off the point) details. Similarly, writers need to ensure that their writing stays on point and does not wander into tangential “birdwalking.”

Strategies: Coherency and Unity



8. Teach Sentence Structure Variety

Good readers are adept at parsing both good and bad sentence structure. They consciously work at identifying sentence subjects and their actions. They apply their knowledge of grammar to build comprehension. For example, they recognize misplaced pronouns and dangling participles, such as in “The boy watched the dog beg at the table and his sister fed it” and are able to understand what the author means, in spite of the poor writing. Good writing maintains the reader’s attention through interesting content, inviting writing style, effective word choice, and sentence variety. Knowing how to use different sentence structures allows the writer to say what the writer wants to say in the way the writer wants to say it. Most professional writers plan 50% of their sentences to follow the subject-verb-complement grammatical sentence structure and 50% to follow other varied sentence structures. No one is taught, convinced, or entertained when bored.

Strategy: Grammatical Sentence Openers

9. Teach Precise Word Choice

Understanding the nuances to word meanings lets the reader understand precisely what the author means. Knowing semantic variations helps the reader understand why authors use the words that they do and helps the reader “read between the lines,” i.e., to infer what the author implies. When writers use words with precision, coherency is improved. There is no ambiguity and the reader can follow the author’s intended train of thought.

Strategies: Vocabulary Ladders and Semantic Spectrums

10. Teach Style, Voice, Point of View, Tone, and Mood

Good readers recognize how an author’s writing style and voice (personality) help shape the way in which the text communicates. For example, if the style is informal and the voice is flippant, the author may use hyperbole or understatement as rhetorical devices. Recognizing whether the author uses omniscient or limited point of view in the first, second, or third person will help the reader understand who knows what, and from what perspective in the reading. Identifying the tone of helps the reader understand how something is being said. For example, if the tone is sarcastic, the reader must be alert for clues that the author is saying one thing, but meaning another. Identifying the mood of a literary work will enable the reader to see how the plot and characters shape the feeling of the writing. For example, knowing that the mood of a poem is dark allows the reader to identify the contrasting symbolism of a “shining light.” In addition to applying the writing tools described above, good writers need to be aware of errors in writing style that do not match the rules and format of certain forms of writing, such as the formal essay.

Strategy: Writing Style Errors

11. Teach Inferences

Both reading and writing is interpretive. Readers infer meaning, make interpretations, or draw logical conclusions from textual clues provided by the author. Writers imply, or suggest, rather than overtly state certain ideas or actions to build interest, create intentional ambiguity, develop suspense, or re-direct the reader.

Strategy: Inference Categories

12. Teach Metacognition and Critical Thinking

Reading and writing are thinking activities. Just decoding words does not make a good reader. Similarly, just spelling correctly, using appropriate vocabulary, and applying fitting structure to paragraphs does not make a good writer. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses as a reader or writer helps one identify or apply the best strategies to communicate. Knowing how to organize thought through chronology, cause-effect, problem-solution, or reasons-evidence rhetorical patterns assists both reader and writer to recognize and apply reasoning strategies. Knowing higher order questioning strategies, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation helps the reader and writer see beyond the obvious and explore issues in depth.

Strategies: Self-Questioning and Reasoning Errors


Reasoning Errors


Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

Pennington Publishing provides two reading intervention program options for ages eight–adult. The Teaching Reading Strategies (Intervention Program) is a full-year, 55 minutes per day program which includes both word recognition and language comprehension instructional resources (Google slides and print). The word recognition components feature the easy-to-teach, interactive 5 Daily Google Slide Activities: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spelling Independent Practice 4. Heart Words Independent Practice 5. The Sam and Friends Phonics Books–decodables 1ith comprehension and word fluency practice for older readers. The program also includes sound boxes and personal sound walls for weekly review.  The language comprehension components feature comprehensive vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, spelling, writing and syntax, syllabication, reading strategies, and game card lessons, worksheets, and activities. Word Recognition × Language Comprehension = Skillful Reading: The Simple View of Reading and the National Reading Panel Big 5.

If you only have time for a half-year (or 30 minutes per day) program, the The Science of Reading Intervention Program features the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities, plus the sound boxes and personal word walls for an effective word recognition program.


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Get the Diagnostic ELA and Reading Assessments FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, writing fluencies, sentence revision activities, remedial writing lessons, posters, eight complete writing process essays, 438 essay e-comment editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE.TES

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