Thesis Throw Down

I am lucky to work very closely with my English department. I’m sure it helps that I am a former English teacher. I have always offered to any of my students, even as a librarian, that I will happily work with them on editing their papers if they ask. Because of this, I noticed that many students that I work with struggle to write a thesis statement. After speaking to a couple of the English teachers, I discovered that this was pretty common throughout our building.

So, I did what any good librarian does – I started researching. I came across the idea of the Thesis Throw Down from Catlin Tucker but decided to alter it a bit to put my own spin on it. I tried the lesson a couple of times last year and this year have added half the English teachers on board of doing this activity with their students.

Not only is this activity to help students better their overall writing, we also are sure to have this activity in March, right before our Ohio state tests, which for us are the AIR tests.

Prior to the Thesis Throw Down, the English teachers do work with students on how to construct a thesis statement and provide them with a few practice opportunities.

Here’s how we do our Thesis Throw Down:

  • Prior to the lesson, I pull writing prompts from former AIR tests. The English teachers do not see the prompts prior to the students seeing them. They decided they like being blind to the prompts so they can have no preconceived notions on what the thesis statements should be.
  • Students are grouped together in teams of 4-5.
  • Each group gets a marker and a piece of the sticky chart paper.
  • I explain what we will be doing today and how it all works to the whole class.
  • Groups then get slips of paper with the same prompt. They may not open/look at the prompt until I say GO.
  • Groups are given 2 minutes to read the prompt and 5 minutes to construct their thesis statement on their chart paper. (They may write on another paper to brainstorm if they so choose.)
  • Once I call time, a member from each group is asked to bring their paper up and stick it to the board.
  • The teacher and I each have our own markers and we have the groups one by one read their thesis statement out loud and we work together and model with the whole class what should be changed about each statement to make it stronger.
  • As we continue the activity, we have to do less modeling and talking out loud about what we would change and the students pick up on it automatically and share as a class what needs to be changed.
  • We then start the whole process over again, but with another prompt.
  • Typically, we get through 4-5 prompts per class period.

It is truly incredible to see how each group progresses in their thesis statement writing. Since we have students working in groups, it’s also very low-stakes for them as individuals so they don’t feel like they personally are being threatened.

The confidence that I see in students as we go through this activity is great! Students who normally don’t speak up in a group setting do and remind their group that they made that error before and to be sure to correct it.

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