INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN: Thesis Statement Cultivation

On a Wednesday after school,  I journeyed to a Career and Technical Education teacher’s classroom to talk about a paper he assigned his learners. Three minutes into our talk, he mentioned how challenging the learners’ papers were to read. 

As he talked my mind floated to my own classroom experiences. In my mind I saw myself teaching writing earlier in my career, or at least making an effort to teach writing. As I taught, tightness tethered itself to my taut chest; I strove to make the writing process clear to my learners. I looked around the room and saw learners experiencing frustration, too. I scanned the room with a teacherly look on my face, eyes piercing and lips pursed only to see learners with heads down in the back of the room. I looked across the room hoping to see at least one following my instruction.  My eyes fixed on the right side of the room only to see learners looking outside the window at the wind blowing in the trees. Still scanning the room to find at just one, one learner who understood, then my eyes locked in on the center of the room and I observed a few learners frowning, tapping their pen on their desk top looking down at their paper struggling to understand how to write based on the way I taught it. This was the common scene every time I taught writing.

Oddly enough, I thought the learners were doing something wrong and not me. One night with papers scattered all over my dining room table slashed up with red pencil, I realized I was the one doing things all wrong. Nearly every paper lacked clarity. At that moment, with silence surrounding me, a light turned on in my teaching. I took responsibility for the learners’  papers’ quality, or lack thereof. This is what a growthucator does. S/he or takes responsibility for the outcomes in the learning garden we call a classroom. 

In the still and quiet of that late hour, I knew I needed to make a change in how I taught writing. I knew I needed to teach learners explicitly how to write a thesis statement. Their papers lacked focus, purpose, and coherence. In the past, I did not explicitly teach learners how to write a thesis statement. I knew, however, at that moment I needed to start.  

A spine is to a human or a trunk is to a tree or a chassis to a car just as a thesis statement is to a paper.  No spine, no life. No chassis, no car. No trunk, no tree. No thesis statement, no paper.

Once my conversation ended with that Career and Technical Education growthucator, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to use the techniques a coach would use when teaching new skills to their team. I needed to teach thesis statement cultivation in chunks. 

To get high quality writing, we must instruct learners how to write high quality thesis statements. As the saying goes, “To make writing clear, write a thesis statement, my dear.” In this lesson, we guide learners to write clear thesis statements. Learners analyze the term thesis statement, learn the five elements and a bonus of the thesis statement, learners practice finding the elements of a thesis statement in a few example, the instructor check understandings by asking learners to teach the classroom their answers on the Thesis Statement Cultivation Worksheet, finally the learners work independently, with some growthucator coaching, to write their own thesis statement.

How do you grow writing clarity?

Growing Writing Beyond Limits,


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