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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.

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