| Jun 21, 2011
BY MICHELLE Y. GREEN
Jun 21, 2011
The word “thesis” comes from Late Latin and Greek, meaning “a putting or setting down.” Even though “thesis” is a noun, it has the sense of completing an action, such as putting or setting down a heavy brick. In other words, a thesis statement has weight. It is the foundation upon which the rest of the essay is built. Every paragraph in the essay should relate back to the topic as “put down” in thesis statement.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many students struggle with how to craft a strong thesis statement. But a simple analogy—a night at the movies—can help demystify the role of the thesis statement in an essay or paper.
Start by giving your class the following scenario:
It’s the weekend, and the latest batch of blockbusters awaits. Time to check the movie listings, call your friends, and get ready for two hours of air-conditioned fun and frolic. You decide to see Thor
, a fantasy flick that Moviefone describes like this: Exiled to Earth after his arrogance fans the flame of an ancient conflict, the Mighty Thor of Asgard discovers the meaning of humility when a powerful old foe dispatches a destructive force to crush humanity.
Although you don’t know much about this hero, you figure from Moviefone’s description that the movie is going to be somewhere between The Lord of the Rings
and Clash of the Titans
. There’s sure to be teeth-grinding revenge, superhuman feats of strength, and lots of swordplay.
But what if, 15 minutes into the show, Thor
turns out to be an animated Disney movie, or worse, a Scandinavian film with subtitles?
You just spent ten dollars on a ticket, not to mention shelling out fifteen bucks for popcorn, M & M’s, and a Dr. Pepper. You got there early and scaled countless steps searching for the perfect seats. All for what? This isn’t the movie you were promised.
Now, help your students make the connection: Just like the blurb about Thor
in Moviefone, the thesis statement gives the reader an expectation
of what will happen. If that expectation is not met, there will be angry moviegoers. Likewise, if the thesis statement fails to inform the reader as to what the essay is about, or states one thing but delivers another, there will be disappointed readers.
The thesis statement also makes a promise to the reader. Tell students that it’s their job to give readers their money’s worth by developing each point as promised. This is more easily accomplished with a well-crafted thesis statement.
Remind students that they can tell a lot by the “Coming Attractions” of a movie: who the stars are, what time period the movie takes place, a general idea of the plot, whether it’s a comedy or thriller. In the same way, a thesis statement sets forth a plan—it gives a “preview” of the essay’s major points.
Moviefone promises that Thor will “fan the flame of an ancient foe,” and “dispatch… a destructive force to crush humanity.” Students may not have heard of the Norse god of thunder, but thanks to the well-written blurb, they sure won’t be expecting Bambi
. Michelle Y. Green is an award-winning children’s book author and an adjunct professor of English at Prince George’s Community College, Largo, Maryland.
© 2011 Michelle Y. Green. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Teaching Tips: Dancing with the StarTs Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up: Cooperative Pre-Writing