Whether you are a student or a teacher, writing thesis statements is the most difficult part of the writing process. Students especially have a difficult time crafting thesis statements that are not only concise, but convey an argument. However, writing thesis statements - and teaching how to write them - does not have to be difficult. If you follow a few simple steps, you'll have students creating great thesis statements, and by extension, great papers in no time. The first time you do this, you'll probably want to walk your students through the whole thing in class, but they'll get the hang of it quickly and soon be able to do it on their own.
Many students like to read without doing much else. This will not help them write effective thesis statements. They need to engage in active reading, or reading with a purpose. It helps if they know before they start reading that they need to write a paper on this particular piece. You can also give them some examples of things to look for. Historical context, author's message, style, and character development are all great ideas. Then, when they are reading, they should underline passages that they find interesting or take notes.
Once the students have completed their active reading, they should look at the passages they underlined or the notes they took. They should be able to begin seeing a theme, or something that recurs throughout their notes. This is what they should think about writing their paper on. Have them brainstorm some other ideas about this topic. The best way to do this is to have them write down everything they can think of about their topic in relation to the piece they read for five minutes, even if they think the ideas are no good. Then, they'll have something to work with.
Ask a Question
After they brainstorm, they should look at their notes. Have them write down a few questions about their notes. These should be questions that they can answer in a whole paper, not yes or no questions. Then, have them choose one question they would like to deal with for the entirety of their paper.
Answer a Question
Once they have chosen a question, they need to answer that question. Remind them that there is no one right answer to any question. Rather, as long as they can prove that their answer is correct, it is. Their answers should be in the form of a sentence, and it should be sufficiently detailed. This means that they should continue asking themselves "why?" and "so what?", until they cannot ask these questions anymore. This will help them craft a statement that is not only an argument, but is a complex one with many facets, which will help them write a better paper. The answer to the question is their thesis statement.
After they have crafted their thesis statements, they should go back through the piece they are writing about to collect details. Some of these may be in their notes, but another look through the passage with a focus can help them find details they had missed. Have them write these details down and then compose an outline or a graphic organizer of sorts to help them organize their paper. They should be able to cluster details into two or three main points, and these main points will eventually become their body paragraphs.
The final step in the process is for students to write their papers. However, this should be easy once they have done all of this pre-work. Have them write paragraphs and sentences based on the details they collect, and always be sure they are going back to proving their thesis throughout the whole paper.