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Why Thesis Statements Are Important for Kids February 2, 2011

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Should you teach thesis statements? If so, in what grade should you teach thesis statements? Hey, are thesis statements even important?

Most people don’t really understand what a thesis statement is, and even the people who do know what a thesis statement is don’t really understand why it is important.

Until a few years ago, I didn’t really get them. I didn’t think they were important.

I did get straight A’s when getting my teaching credential and I can honestly say I never thought about the term “thesis statement” while getting them. How important are thesis statements if this is possible? In college, getting good grades was just one of my many interests, but I’m quite sure I cared even less about thesis statements in college than when I got my teaching credential… and I did just fine.

To me, the word thesis statement was simply a term that English majors liked to use.

Thesis Statements in Elementary and Middle School?

The 5th grade California State Writing Standards state:

Grade 5 Writing Strategies 1.0 – Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays.

By definition, an essay has a thesis statement. Okay, so thesis statements may be important. HOWEVER, when elementary and middle school students are struggling with paragraphs and grammar, thesis statements can SEEM unimportant.

In fact, when one considers Piaget’s constructivist learning theory, thesis statements can seem like a waste of time for students still grasping “the simple concepts.” In short, you don’t want to spend a lot of valuable time teaching students concepts that may take them backwards. You don’t want students to get to the point where they think, “Okay… I admit it… I don’t understand writing and I never will.” Thesis statements can have that effect. So don’t teach them?

Wait a Minute!

What I have now come to see is that you can use thesis statements as a tool for achieving many different writing and reading comprehension results.

Thesis statements have become a coat rack on which I hang many concepts. I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing about thesis statements is the “THESIS THINKING” that goes along with them.

Here is Why Thesis Statements are Important

Here’s what a great screenwriting teacher said. The way he uses the term “premise” is what I have learned to teach my students about “thesis statements.”

The very first step in creating a good comedy script is to figure out a great premise. Your premise is your story stated in a single line. It’s probably the most important element in any script, because if it’s not a good premise there is very little that you can do to make the overall script work, make the overall script something that people will want to read. So it’s very important that you start with a good core idea.
John Truby (Screenwriter, screenwriting teacher, director)

Thesis is very closely related to premise. Let’s substitute thesis for premise and essay for script and see how it reads.

The very first step in creating a good essay is to figure out a great thesis. Your thesis is your essay stated in a single line. It’s probably the most important element in any essay, because if it’s not a good thesis there is very little that you can do to make the overall essay work, make the overall essay something that people will want to read. So it’s very important that you start with a good core idea.

In other words, this kind of “Thesis Thinking” is important in all kinds of writing.

NOW, thesis statements and “Thesis Thinking” help students:

• Find main ideas
• Write with a purpose
• Master different modes of writing
• Summarize
• Narrow down a topic
• Develop clear and concise thinking and writing
• Understanding the purpose behind all the different types of essays
• Write stories which have a premise

By the way, in the next few months I have a new program coming out. The working title is, “Thesis Statements, Vision, Subject and Topic.” It’s exciting and has a lot of deep, deep thinking skills. I’m not sure if I am going to offer it only to current users of PBW, or if I am going to make it a standalone program.

I’m pretty secure in my belief that all students need to understand what is inside “Pattern Based Writing: Quick and Easy Essay” before tackling more complicated concepts. Sure, some students just naturally understand what good writing is. They understand how it is all put together. If your students don’t… check out the homepage.

Piaget, Pattern Based Writing, and Thesis Statements

I think Piaget would have liked Pattern Based Writing. With PBW you can teach your students to construct their writing knowledge correctly the first time around. If it’s too late for that and your students are getting kind of old and still don’t get it, you can use PBW to scaffold the instruction and get them up to speed quickly.

Here’s what one 7th grade teacher said about Pattern Based Writing: Quick and Easy Essay:

I was describing it to a colleague a little while ago as, “the basics made clearer.”  I have taught many of these ideas but not as an organized structure. 5 paragraph essays just make sense, but I had no formal way of getting that idea to be part of their natural writing process. Thank you for this opportunity to enjoy teaching my students writing.

That’s Piaget’s model in a nutshell!

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