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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Red, green, yellow, blue: Write a thesis, show it's true

The 3-3-3 paragraph had a thesis sentence with a "subject and attitude," supported by three topic sentences, each of which was supported by three subtopic sentences, each of which was supported by at least three "concrete and specific" details. We did expository writing in English class -- and no other form of writing -- for all four years in high school.

We hated it. But it was very useful. We learned to say something and back it up. What if your thesis can't be backed by three topic sentences? Come up with a stronger thesis.

Teaching students to structure their writing is back in style, writes Sarah Schwartz in Education Week. She visits a Wisconsin classroom where third-graders are learning to write a topic statement about Galileo's study of the moon and come up with supporting details. (I am unable to hear the word "details" without thinking "concrete and specific.")

The teaching method uses "explicit instruction and lots of modeling," plus color coding, writes Schwartz. Students learn how to write complex sentences and structure a paragraph.

“Process writing” techniques, such as free writing or journaling about personal experiences, "have dominated classrooms for the past few decades," she writes.

As schools move toward "structured literacy," teaching "the building blocks of reading in an explicit, systematic way," structured writing is catching on too.

189 views2 comments


May 11, 2023

I wonder if they might be persuaded to bring back the structure called grammar, the teaching of which has been proscribed by the National Council of Teachers of English since the last century.


May 10, 2023

That's not expository writing. It is argumentation. We did that and they threw in the useless literary criticism. Argumentation does have a place in some college writing, definitely if you become a PhD. And is of value to the lawyer. But elsewhere in life, it is a lot like Algebra, generally never used again.

Whereas, real expository writing where you use an essay to discipline your thinking on a topic and may even prove your original thesis wrong, does have value but is not generally taught.

Nothing can be more hypocritical than for young people who are still in the rudiments of literature to be forced into pronouncing objective judgments as to the worth of literature. Students instinctively feel this,…

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