One of the most difficult things to teach young writers is how to develop a thesis that demonstrates an argument-worthy topic. And now with the Common Core State Standards emphasizing argument, teachers everywhere work tirelessly to help students be savvy discerners of information in hopes to develop thoughtful communicators of messages based on evidence.
In my classroom, I found students struggled when creating a thesis and so I used a method I learned in college (Dr. Robbins) to help in this process. It really worked, and students often contacted me years after leaving high school for a copy of the steps they used to help them in college. Students worked through the following 6 prompts to help them narrow their topic and write a thesis:
Defining the Topic
- This paper is about …. (subject): In particular, it is about …. (specific topic):
- The Central Question it addresses is who/what/when/where/why/how/whether ….
- The answer to this question is important because it is necessary to better understand the larger issue of … (significance): Establishing Significance
- This larger issue is not (or might not be) fully or accurately understood because … (Reason for doubt or uncertainty):
- It is important to fully and accurately understand the larger issue because … (Cost of ignorance or misunderstanding):
- The evidence seems to indicate that the correct answer to the central question is …. (thesis)
Defining the Topic
- State what you are going to study.
- I am going to study Virtual Reality. In particular, I am going to investigate the impact of VR on K-12 education.
- What question do you want to answer?
- …because I want to find out how it affects the brain of children.
- How will the answer to the question lead to a better understanding of the larger issue?
- so that I will better understand why there are differing opinions in the world of academia on this use in the classroom.
- How is the larger issue misunderstood?
- Scholars, educators, and VR companies are treating this technology integration similarly to all other tools and resources without considering the immersive element of Virtual Reality and implications on the brain.
- Why is it important that the larger issue NOT be misunderstood?
- If we fail to recognize the difference of integrating VR in the classroom compared to other technology we could be putting our students’ in harm’s way.
- State how the evidence demands the larger issue should be understood.
- As we will see, many argue against the inclusion of virtual reality in the classroom claiming it is still too new to understanding the implications it has on the developing brain.
These steps help to clarify the topic and define the significance. Once students figure out their argument and why it is significant, research and writing are anchored in answering the question and finding evidence to support their argument.