If there’s any literacy skill you would want your English Language Arts students to master, it would probably be how to write a thesis statement. If you want to teach your students how to write powerful, eloquent, and exceptionally captivating thesis statements, then you’ll love the activities in this article.
The key to any good essay is a strong thesis statement. A strong thesis statement sets the tone and clarifies the author’s purpose: it tells you the writer’s opinion, along with the level of thought and criticism that has gone into formulating it.
A strong thesis statement also creates an alluring introduction paragraph. This makes each paper in your grading pile a lot more inviting.
How do you teach students to write a thesis statement to make their audience continue reading? Here are seven activities to teach how to write a thesis statement:
1. Differentiate Between Strong and Weak Thesis Statements
Writing a thesis statement might be a new skill for your students. Thesis statements are often taught as a topic sentence or the “whole essay boiled down into one sentence.” This can be a challenging concept for your students to grasp.
To teach how to write a thesis statement, have a discussion about what makes a strong thesis. You can turn this into a collaborative lesson by brainstorming differentiation statements. These statements clarify what a thesis is and is not.
For example: “A proper thesis statement is written in one sentence,” or “a proper thesis statement is directly related to the rest of the essay.” This is a great opportunity to teach students the difference between a topic sentence or a hook.
Your students can use this free bookmark to differentiate between a strong thesis statement and a weak one.
2. Clarify with a “Golden Compass”
After having a discussion, you can provide students with a thesis statement definition. Keep in mind that “definitions” are boring, and your students have likely encountered several of them. This is why we call it a “golden compass” in my classroom.
The “golden compass” is a small self-assessment tool. Students can use it to determine whether or not they are on the right track. In combination with differentiation statements, a “golden compass” is a great scaffolding tool for teaching how to write a thesis statement.
3. Evaluate Thesis Statement Examples
Now that students have plenty of guidelines, challenge their understanding by evaluating thesis statement examples. You can use thesis statement examples from past students’ essays. You can even write your own examples based on the differentiation statements you create with your class.
If you’re open to your students receiving constructive, anonymous criticism, you can even have them write a thesis statement and evaluate each one as a class. I’ve had success with providing students with a thesis statement topic and having them write a thesis statement. Then, I prompt them to swap with their elbow partner to offer feedback.
If you’d rather provide a comprehensive list of thesis statements that reflect the common errors you would typically see in students’ essays, there are several student examples in this introductory lesson on how to write a thesis statement – this is one of my favorite activities for teaching how to write a thesis statement!
4. Provide a Thesis Statement Template
One of the easiest ways to teach how to write a thesis statement is to offer a thesis statement template. There are a variety of thesis statement templates that students can use as a framework for their essays. I start with a basic template that involves the three parts of a thesis statement: a topic, position, and evidence. I then demonstrate to students how they can create variations of this template, depending on which order they introduce each part (you can find examples for each template in these thesis statement template handouts).
You can also introduce a few sentence styles to your students. These styles scaffold eloquent thesis statements. They also offer students the space to articulate their thoughts without exceeding the one-sentence limit.
Sentence Styles for the 3 Parts of a Thesis Statement
Here are a few sentence styles that incorporate the three parts of a thesis statement. Each style also includes an example written by a real student:
- Style A:
“Subject + Verb; Subject + Verb; Subject + Verb – Dependent Clause”
Example: “The promotion of hygiene; the presence of medical professionals; the prevention of death – these are all reasons why supervised injection services are an important facet of public health.”
- Style B:
If (subject + verb), if (subject + verb), if (subject + verb), then (independent clause)
Example: “If taxpayers do not wish to have their money allocated to cruelty, if more than 100 million animals die from animal testing a year, if alternatives to animal testing exist, then governments should ban the practice of testing on animals.”
- Style C:
Independent clause: subject + verb, subject + verb, subject + verb
Example: “College education should be entirely funded by the government: student debt would be eliminated, education would not be commodified, and access to education would not be exclusive to privileged people.”
All of these sentence styles are outlined in these practice worksheets for how to write a thesis statement, with writing prompts to reinforce each thesis statement template through repeated practice.
5. Daily Practice Activities to Teach How to Write a Thesis Statement
One of the most effective ways to teach how to write a thesis statement is through repeated practice. You can do this by incorporating daily bell ringers into your persuasive writing unit. To assign this activity, I provide students with three topics to choose from. I then prompt them to develop an opinion and write a thesis statement for one.
I’ll also include bell ringers that provide a thesis statement that students need to evaluate. Students really enjoy these drills. They get the opportunity to develop opinions on interesting topics, and many of them choose to explore these ideas as the subject of their final research paper.
If you’re looking for premade worksheets with thesis statement activities, these Daily Thesis Statement Bell Ringers include one month’s worth of thesis statement prompts, graphic organizers, and templates in both digital and ready-to-print format.
6. Use a Self-Assessment Thesis Statement Anchor Chart
You can provide students with a thesis statement anchor chart to reference the guidelines and rules they’ve learned. A personalized anchor chart is best – like this FREE Thesis Statement Checklist Bookmark – so that students can have it on hand while they are reading and writing.
You can distribute the anchor chart at the beginning of your research paper unit. Students can refer to it while evaluating thesis statement examples or completing daily practice activities. A thesis statement anchor chart has been a complete gamechanger in my classroom, and I’m pleased to learn that many of my students have held on to these – even for their college papers!
7. Provide Engaging Thesis Statement Topics
You can collaborate with your students to generate an engaging list of good topics for thesis statements. Start by writing down every suggestion that your students come up with. Then, you can narrow this list down to avoid broad, far-reaching thesis statements that lead to a watered-down essay. When I make this list with my students, we end up with topics that are truly engaging for them. I also have the opportunity to clarify which topics might be a little too vague or broad for an exceptional essay.
For example, students often suggest topics like “racism” or “the problem with school.” These are learning opportunities to demonstrate to students that a great topic is the essential starting point for an even greater essay. To elaborate, a topic like racism has different implications all over the world. It is far too complex to explore in a single, 750-word essay. Instead, we work together to narrow this topic down to something like “racism in the media,” or even better, “representation in Hollywood.”
Additionally, a topic like “the problem with school” is more of a conclusion. To solve this, we work backward to identify some of the aspects of our school that make it an obstacle. This can include uniforms, early starts, or cell phone policies. This process leads students to a more concise topic, like “cell phone policies in twenty-first-century schools.”
If you’re looking for engaging thesis statement topics to inspire your students, I’ve included a list of 75 argumentative essay topics as a bonus file in this comprehensive Practice Bundle for How to Write a Thesis Statement.
Tying it All Together
There are plenty of fun thesis statement activities and practice lessons that you can incorporate into your curriculum. Give thesis statements the love and attention they deserve in the classroom – after all, they truly are the most important part of a research essay.
All of the worksheets, lessons, and activities referenced in this blog post are included in Mondays Made Easy’s Bundle to teach How to Write a Thesis Statement. This bundle has everything you need to teach your students how to master their thesis statements and apply these essential literacy skills to their writing.
Learn more about the bundle to Teach How to Write Thesis Statement