I’m in between students, waiting for my 11:00 appointment. My last student had an okay thesis in his introduction but lost it in his body paragraphs. He ended just repeating the way Gatto and Loewen characterize the problem, and not supporting his thesis at all. The student before that was just agreeing with Gatto and Loewen. His paper had a main point, but it wasn’t a thesis. In our conversation, I explained that one of the reasons you need an arguable thesis is because otherwise, his reader would say, “Why should I bother reading this paper? I could just read Gatto and Loewen.”
And so I was thinking again about how this whole thing about helping students find a THESIS, not just a main point, not just a loose point that these two authors share, but something worth saying, and how it is another way to help the whole “school is boring” problem. I said this already (in a previous post), but I just keep thinking how ironic it is that I’m reading these student drafts which say that school is boring (echoing Gatto and Loewen), and how we need to fix that, and then the students write a boring paper themselves by not having an arguable thesis to prove. They contribute to the whole problem by writing a paper that they will never remember writing because it was so boring, because it took no risk to say anything. So, heheh, they could argue that one of the best ways to solve the “school is boring” problem is to write an arguable thesis.
Hmmm, wouldn’t that be an interesting essay assignment? To ask students write an essay in which they argue that theses are essential to academic writing and why, explaining what an arguable thesis is, why it’s important to academic conversation, and how it makes school not so boring!
5:26p Okay now I’m finished for the day. I’ve met with 16 students today. I think if I talked much longer today I’d start losing my voice. My throat’s already fairly sore. I’m realizing that in many cases, I’d be (kind of) satisfied if the student had one organizing thesis, even if it wasn’t arguable, but only a synthesizing idea. But since they don’t have that often times, I might as well help them goes right past the goal of a synthesizing idea to one that’s also arguable.
I want to think about ways I can help them understand this whole concept of a thesis better, next term (well, and for THIS term, as they need to come up with a strong thesis for their next two papers, as well, obviously).
Oh, and I remember something else I wanted to remember from last night’s practicum. I think was Kushlani who suggested — for peer review — that we make up a list of phrases and words TO use and NOT to use in responding to their peer’s drafts. E.g., don’t use evaluative words: great, good, excellent, poor, etc — unless of course it’s quickly backed up with specific reasons. But, still, might as well get them to not use evaluative teacher-like words, anyway. And DO use “I” statements: “I was confused here.” “I like this part because you give me a vivid picture of…”
Anyway, what a blur of a day. I feel like I just got here to campus; now it’s already 5:40p and time to go home. Gotta read another chunk of The Professor’s House, if I can keep get my brain to keep functioning.
After he had found a strong thesis, one of my last students smiled and said something like, “So, have you been doing this all day with students?” I said, “Yeah! But I get a charge out of it.” And I do. It is fun to think and think, and reflect and reflect, and play with and play with, until CLICK! there’s a workable thesis! Then everything else (revising, re-writing) feels like downhill. Then every time you hit the return key to start a new paragraph, you may not know exactly how you’re going to write that paragraph, but you know what your PURPOSE is, you know what you’re trying to say, and so it’s a lot easier, when you know what you’re aiming for.
Maybe I should have students present their rough outlines to me before they draft. I’m usually not a “outline” person, preferring actual writing as a way to find a thesis. But sketch outlines might be a good compromise. I know I do both in my own writing process… write a bit, find an idea, write a bit more, find a thesis, try out a sketch outline to see if it’ll work…