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Activities for Writing a Thesis for Middle Grades

by Billie Wager

Teaching writing to middle-schoolers is a complex task requiring patience and determination. While some students may have had instruction in writing at the elementary level, others will enter middle school with little writing experience. Understanding how to write an appropriate thesis will improve students' writing abilities across the curriculum. Language Arts teachers can take pride in their work as they watch their students accomplish this task.

Define and Conquer

Highlighting the thesis provides hands-on practice.

Before students can conquer the task of writing a thesis, they have to understand the definition. A thesis is the main idea of an essay or report. Introduce and post the definition somewhere in the classroom. Then pass out several short essays for the students to read. Have students use highlighters to mark the thesis of the essays. After students have highlighted the theses, they should cut out the thesis statements and tape them under the definition. The definition and examples will serve as a resource wall for students as they begin writing their own thesis statements.

From Weak to Strong

Working in pairs helps build confidence when learning new skills.

Select a topic of interest to your students. The topic can be related to a novel you are reading in class or a current event affecting students at your school. Provide a short list of weak thesis statements for students to analyze. Have students judge the statements based on the ability to grab the reader's attention, provide an answer to the topic question and potential for debate. Then have students work in pairs to improve the strength of the statements. Share the new, stronger statements with the class and discuss the improvements.

It Takes Two

Offering limited choices helps students get started.

When writing a thesis, it is also important that the essay support the thesis statement. Students with little writing experience may need limited thesis choices when it comes to accomplishing this task. Introduce the topic for the assignment and offer two opposing choices for thesis statements. Allow students to select the one they feel most comfortable writing. Assign them to write a short essay with the thesis selected. Partner students with classmates with the opposing thesis statement. Have them discuss how their essays support the statements chosen.

Final Project

Students should be prepared to use their writing skills in all classes.

Once students have had experience writing a thesis, it is time for them to show what they have learned. Choose a topic and give students an outline for an essay, including boxes for the thesis, supporting details, and a conclusion. Have students brainstorm ideas for a thesis and then work independently to write the essay, using the outline as a guide. Provide feedback as the students are working. Then have the students edit and complete a final copy of the essay to display in the classroom or share with the class.

About the Author

Billie Wager has been a public school teacher since 1998. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction, both from Ottawa University. Wager is licensed to teach kindergarten through ninth grade in Kansas.

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