Ice Cream, Hamburgers, and Thesis Statements

My daughter, who is in the eighth grade, had to practice writing thesis statements for her language arts class. The method her teacher was using was different from mine, but a good starting point if you are a beginner. She gave her students a list of topics and they had to write a thesis statement for each one, then choose three and write a paragraph for each one.

The method she used was Fact + Opinion = Thesis Statement. For example, if the topic was ice cream, then the thesis statement could be:

Gerald-G-Ice-Cream-Cones-FF-Menu-2Ice cream can be a healthy treat, but too much ice cream can make you fat.

Now, I’m not sure I could write a paragraph using this thesis statement, much less an entire essay. Most basic essays are comprised of 5 paragraphs: the introduction, 3 informative paragraphs, and a conclusion.

The method I use is a little different and calls for finding a topic, writing down 3 facts about that topic, and your opinion on the topic. For example, using the ice cream topic above, the thesis statement could be:


Ice cream can be a healthy treat because it is delicious, it comes in many flavors, and it can be

eaten in many ways; but, eating too much ice cream can make you fat. 

Now with this formula, you automatically know what your three informative paragraphs will be about! Your introductory paragraph will discuss the health benefits and the problem of eating too much ice cream. The first informative paragraph will be about how delicious ice cream is and possibly how it affects the taste buds. The second informative paragraph will be about the different flavors of ice cream and flavor trends. The third paragraph will be about the different ways to eat ice cream (as a cone, as a sundae, and as  a topping to other desserts. The concluding paragraph will restate the thesis statement in a different way, discuss what you’ve already written about, and have a concluding statement that reinforces your information and opinion.

hamburger-no-cheeseThis formula may seem complicated but I look at it like making a hamburger. The top bun is the introduction and the conclusion is the bottom bun. In between the buns you have the lettuce (the first informative paragraph), the tomato(the second informative paragraph), and the hamburger (the third informative paragraph). This gives the students a visual image to not only make them hungry, but to use as a guide to creating their essay.


No Time to Write

Hello All!

I have been exceptionally busy this week at my real job and have not had a second to write. It’s very frustrating because I have so much to say and the urge to write is omnipresent. I’ve even started carrying a digital recorder with me so I can put some thoughts down SOMEWHERE, and hopefully get them onto my blog at some point. I’m hoping that over this holiday weekend I can get caught up and back on track.

In the meantime, I have another reblog from Jeff Goins at Goins, Writer. This one called  020: Navigating the Maze to Become a Full-Time Writer: Interview with Margaret Roach [Podcast]. Here is a quick excerpt:

“The path to becoming a full-time writer isn’t always a straight one. Sometimes your career will wind through a maze of experiences and you will be left wondering one thing: Do I have what it takes?”

To read the complete article and listen to the podcast you will need to go here. Enjoy!

What Writing a Book Could Cost You

 What Writing a Book Could Cost You written by Anne Peterson and originally posted on Goins, Writer is an excellent article that gives insight into what it takes to write a book and what to expect once you’ve been published.

“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”


There is an old proverb: “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” This quote is attributed to George Bernard Shaw from Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists.” I, of course, do not agree with this proverb and find its popularity offensive. I teach my students how to think. I teach for the love of teaching. I teach by giving my students real world examples and applications. But most of all, I teach from personal experience.

If you read the proverb, and “Maxims for Revolutionists” you will find that there is a distinct note of sarcasm in Shaw’s statements.

I love sarcasm. I don’t think that there is a moment in my life where I have not used sarcasm. It might be a defense mechanism I developed over time, but I find humor in sarcasm. And that is how this proverb should be read. Because just 2 lines later he also states, “Activity is the only road to knowledge.”

No one ever quotes that statement. It’s just not as funny.

However, when you are writing an essay or technical document, there is no place for sarcasm. You have to be straightforward, direct, exacting. If you are writing a novel, then you can integrate sarcasm into one of your characters to add depth.

All I am saying is that you have to be careful when using proverbs, and sarcasm, when expressing your point. If you are speaking to someone who does not know you, then they may take what you are saying very seriously instead of with the grain of salt you added to it.

And remember, when you are teaching, include activities that relate to real world applications, not just the mindless fill-in-the-blank stuff that is included with your textbook. Allow your students to see how this knowledge that you are imparting unto them will be used when they get out school, that is why they are there, not just because the law requires it. And that is why you are there, to teach them using your personal experience.

The First Day of School

Well, last week was the first day of school for my kids. However, with the death of Robin Williams my spirit and my writing topics got all out of kilter. I’m still not over his death, and I’m still not sure why it has affected me so deeply, but it has. I hope that some good will come out of all of this, like more depression awareness and people seeing depression as an illness and not an imaginary disorder.

Back to the topic at hand, back to school. The first day of school is a fresh start for everyone. A new year to learn, and a new year to teach. Unfortunately, I am not teaching this year, not even as an adjunct instructor. The reasons are far too complicated to get into here, maybe in one of my ramblings I will discuss it, but for now let’s just say that this blog is my teaching outlet for now.

Anyway, a Green Day song played on the radio and for some reason it always reminds me of the first day of school. (It was also the song that played on the Seinfeld finale. I only mention this in case you wonder why it sounds familiar.)

The reason it reminds me of school is that first line. The first day of school is a turning point in every student’s life. A new grade. A new adventure. A new learning experience. A new teacher, or teachers, to get to know. And as “time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go” you must decide which path you will take. Will you complete all of your assignments? Will you complete them to the best of your ability? Will you turn them in on time? Will you take anything away from your learning experiences this year?

My advice is to keep up with your work, because the moment you get behind it becomes out of control and you will feel helpless and powerless to get caught up. Many of my students  just give up for the rest of the term.

It’s disappointing and heart-breaking. Each student comes in with such potential, with such good intentions, with such optimism. I try to keep that momentum going by giving them reasonable assignments that coincide with real world experiences. “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why, It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time.”

They say that school is the best time of your life. I don’t know about all of that, but I do have some fond memories from that time period. I loved school. I guess because I loved to read and write. I was also unusual in that I was good at math too. Right and left brain working together.

I didn’t always understand why I was being taught a specific subject or topic, but later in life that light-bulb always went off. I had that aha moment, that moment of clarity.

So to all of you students out there, I know how difficult school is. Just remember, “For what it’s worth it was worth all the while.” Go forth and learn!

Good luck with your new school year. Make it a good one!

Here are the complete lyrics from Green Day:

“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos and memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth it was worth all the while

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.