National History Day in Colorado recommends that every student participating in NHDC writes an essay about their topic before transforming their research conclusions into a project. Not only is this great writing practice for students (and it helps fulfill Colorado literacy standards), it also helps students organize their thoughts prior to creating a project. The next two workshops will focus of the mid-project essay assignment.
Before students can jump in and write a paper, they must solidify their thesis statement and organize their research. Workshop 12 focuses on this.
In workshop 3, your students wrote a preliminary—or working—thesis statement. Today, we will look at the thesis statement more closely. Keep in mind that the thesis statement for a National History Day project varies from that for an assignment for English class, so students should all be instructed in writing an NHD thesis.
First, discuss with your student why they must develop a thesis statement. The thesis statement is the student’s opportunity to tell the judges what they are going to “prove”. The thesis statement defines what the project is about. The major difference between a thesis for an NHD project and an everyday writing is that the thesis here ties the project to the NHD annual theme.
So, the purpose of the thesis statement is three-fold…
1. It briefly explains the narrow focus of the project.
2. It relates the project to the annual theme.
3. It might take a stand on an issue that others might dispute.
In lesson 3, when student wrote their preliminary thesis, they used the formula TOPIC+THEME+IMPACT=THESIS. Because they had not started to research, student probably did not understand the impact at that time. Now that they have been researching, they should be able to include the IMPACT element in their thesis.
Before moving on to practicing the skill, remind your student that this is a thesis statement, not a topic sentence. It is okay to write 2 or 3 sentences to accomplish your goal.
To practice with your class, show them several poorly written thesis statements. Ask them to help you revise them into something more appropriate for a National History Day project. Give them an example first.
Poorly written thesis:
Jackie Robinson was an important black baseball player.
Stronger thesis statement:
Jackie Robinson played baseball when black players did not have the right
to share the field with their white counterparts. With the leadership of
Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey, Robinson became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues, earning the right for other black players to follow.
Linked here, you will find a document titled “Thesis Statement Do’s and Don’ts.” This document will provide you with several poor thesis statements and examples of how they could be improved. After a few examples, let your students try some.
Students should begin working on their own thesis statement. Explain that this is a work in progress that will probably change as they learn more and more about their topic. They will be writing next week, so their thesis statements should be completed before the next workshop. This thesis statement worksheet might be helpful. A handout about writing thesis statements is also available.
Getting a Head Start:
Next week, students will be organizing their research to write a short thesis paper. If you have time this week, you might want to have students begin outlining (See lesson 13).