Copyright 2001 © Laraine Flemming.
1. Although I emphasize that reading longer selections simply expands upon skills that students already possess, I also point out the following differences between reading single paragraphs and reading longer selections:
2. I think the best way to teach this chapter is to have students write their own short papers, modeled on the sample essay about anorexia nervosa (pages 297-298). Their essays should open with a few sentences of introduction followed by the thesis statement. They then need to write at least four more paragraphs, with one of those paragraphs functioning as a minor detail. Obviously, this is a very formalized, schematic way of composing an essay. Yet as a teaching device, I think it works admirably. It provides students with a template for creating future essays. It also gives them experience creating the same textual elements they need to look for in the writing of others. Although some teachers may want to let students choose their own topics and thesis statements, I find this exercise is most effective if you give students ideas to pursue. Some of the following thesis statements have proven effective in the past:
Students can certainly refine the thesis statements if they wish. The point of having these ready-made statements is to provide students with a kernel thesis that readily lends itself to the format described above.
3. Although Exercises 1 and 2 (pages 299-307) ask students to discover main ideas and thesis statements, these two exercises can easily be used to talk about the way writers imagine potential questions readers might raise and then respond by supplying the appropriate supporting details. Take answer a on page 301: “By the time she died, Mary Mallon had truly earned her nickname ‘Typhoid Mary.’” Ask your students what question that thesis statement would raise in the minds of readers. Most likely they will tell you that it raises a question like “How did Mary Mallon earn the nickname ’Typhoid Mary?’” Once they pose that question, ask them to look at the reading itself and point to places where precisely that question gets answered. An exercise that makes students focus on the relationship between writer and reader helps clarify the underlying logic of supporting details. Once students realize they need to use the thesis statement as the starting point for locating and evaluating details, they are much more focused in their search.
Last change made to this page: August 13, 2001
Quiz 1: Identifying the Main Idea
Quiz 2: Recognizing Thesis Statements