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Lesson Plan Title: Free Write to Thesis

Grade Level: 9-12

Duration: 50 minutes

Description: The following lessons are designed to help teachers guide students through the entire process of writing a persuasive essay. After generating ideas for a persuasive essay, students will narrow their choices. Finally, they will choose one topic, which they will - in turn - develop into a strong thesis statement.

Student Objectives: Students will explore a range of topics before narrowing their focus down to one, which they will then be able to state forcefully within a well-formed thesis.


  1. Thesis vs. Counter-Thesis (PDF)

Set Up and Prepare: The objective of writing a persuasive essay is to forward an — opinion with compelling force. Have your students brainstorm on paper a list of possible topics for a persuasive essay (5 minutes). Encourage them to list issues about which they feel strongly enough to write.


PART I: Guided Free Writing

Step 1: Have students sit down with pen and paper and write for 10 minutes without stopping. Instruct them to write freely and passionately about issues or topics that excite them. Let them know that the secret to free writing is to keep the pen upon the page.

Step 2: After 10 minutes, ask students to go back and look for themes and connections in their writing. On a separate piece of paper, have students write a focused paragraph, condensing their ideas in to 4-5 sentences.

Step 3: Instruct students to re-write their paragraphs in one sentence (under 21 words). This succinct sentence - or thesis statement - should forcefully assert an idea or opinion.

PART II: Thesis vs. Counter-Thesis

Step 4: Print out and distribute the Thesis vs. Counter-Thesis reproducible. Instruct students to write their thesis statements in the left column.

Step 5: Break students into groups of four. Ask students to pass their notebooks - clockwise - to the right.

Step 6: Instruct students to carefully read their classmates' thesis statements and then write counter-thesis statements in the right column. Why might someone disagree with the idea presented in the thesis? The counter-thesis should clearly refute the thesis in the left column.

Step 7: Ask students to pass their notebooks to the right and respond to the counter-thesis with a new thesis. The new thesis should synthesize ideas from the line above it. So the student should take the original thesis and make it better by answering some of the concerns raised against it in the right column to create a new thesis in the left column.

Step 8: Have students pass the handout seven times. Then, select one student from each group and have them read their handouts out loud. Talk about how a persuasive essay requires the kind of thinking modeled by the handout.

Assess Students: Are the students writing compelling, forceful thesis statements that take counterarguments into consideration?

Lesson Extension: Ask students to use the Thesis vs. Counter-Thesis handouts to reformulate their original thesis statements, synthesizing some of the new ideas contributed by classmates.

Evaluate Lesson: Were students able to demonstrate the analytical thinking skills required of a persuasive essay? Did they understand the relationship between thesis, counter-thesis, and new thesis? Were they able to synthesize each others ideas succinctly?

Assignments: Have students bring their succinct thesis statements to the next class.

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