Have you ever read a book where you feel like you really know the characters? You understand their dreams and relate to their failures, you can see yourself making similar decisions, and maybe they even remind you of someone you know. Rich, fully-developed characters are what separate good books from great books. It is the characters who feel like they could walk right off the page that stay with us long after we put a novel down.Read More
If you are reading this, I can tell you’ve mastered solving simple linear equations. You’ve mastered the art of balance. You know that whatever you do to one side of the equal sign, you must do to the other. You can perform inverse operations until the cows come home, and you are a pro at isolating the variable. I bet you even check your work by plugging your answer back into the original equation, math whiz kid that you are. You could solve the following problem without breaking a sweat.Read More
Today, we are going to learn how to solve linear algebraic equations like 3y + 3 = 18 or 5x - 4 = 16. If these equations make you feel a bit queasy, have no fear! I am going to break the process down into five simple steps.Read More
Writing literary essays can be scary. Learning how to analyze texts through writing is one of the most challenging but fundamental skills that you’ll need in your academic career. Particularly for younger students, this task can be daunting. However, if you follow a few simple steps, it doesn’t have to be!Read More
It can be hard to keep your child reading after the school year end. These are five of my favorite books to recommend for any reluctant middle school reader. These stories will keep them engaged and excited to read all summer long!
Tags: middle school
You may have read in recent news that the stakes for the New York City specialized high school admissions are very high. At the center of this heated discussion is a little known test named the SHSAT -- a standardized test that is designed to assess middle school curriculum content mastery for students entering these high schools. Being local to New York and a company that has taught many middle schoolers in this city since 2012, we thought it timely to put out a quick run-down of this test.Read More
Tags: middle school
Do you have an 8 to 12-year-old who says that hate reading? These are fun, quirky and quick stories that will make them fall in love with reading! Don't miss out on these middle school book recommendations:Read More
Tags: middle school
It doesn’t matter how old you are, I firmly believe that everyone can enjoy a young adult book. While they are typically targeted at teenagers since the main characters range from 14-19 years old, these stories can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their age. The following books are impactful and important stories that I firmly believe everyone should read.Read More
Writing a good thesis is simple: pick a position, then defend it like crazy.
Your English teacher likes to talk about writing a thesis. You've learned about this every year, it seems, and yet somehow, when you get your paper back, your teacher has always marked all over it, and said that your thesis is "not an argument" or "not specific enough" or "not provable." What's the big deal? This is one of the biggest problems I encounter as a homework tutor for middle schoolers in NYC, so today, we'll go over the basics.
One thesis. Two theses (pronounced thee-sees; why do plurals have to sound so weird sometimes? Thank Latin, one of the many parent languages of English). This is the argument of your essay. The point of every essay is to persuade someone of your point of view. If it's a formal essay for school, you won't use "I" or "you," but your thesis is still telling your opinion. The thesis statement is usually just one sentence, but it is also THE MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE in your essay. Every other sentence is supporting this one. That means everything in your essay should relate to this sentence in some way, either introducing the ideas or helping prove this idea.
Thesis vs. Topic
A topic is what your essay is about. Maybe "the death penalty" or "the role of fate in Romeo and Juliet." That is not your thesis. Everyone in your class could have the same topic, but write completely different theses. A thesis must be debatable. "The death penalty is when the government kills people who committed crimes" is a definition or fact. It cannot be debated. "The death penalty reduces crime" or "The death penalty should be abolished" are two different theses, taking opposing sides on the death penalty. You can debate either one.
Not every topic has a pro/con side. In an analytical essay, your thesis might look more like, "In Romeo and Juliet, fate is responsible for the lovers’ deaths." Your thesis must be provable, with evidence you will take from the book, and it must still be debatable (someone else could say, "No! Fate is not the deciding factor! It's Romeo and Juliet's own stupid decisions, which is not fate!").
Thesis vs. Topic Sentence
The thesis is the last sentence of your introduction. You spend your introduction setting up the context, and then the thesis goes at the end.
Each paragraph after that should have a topic sentence. The topic sentence is like a mini-thesis for each paragraph. Everything in the following paragraph should be evidence to help prove the topic sentence of that paragraph. But each topic sentence should be directly related to the thesis of the whole essay. It's like a puzzle: the body paragraphs should fit together to show the whole picture - which could be summarized by the thesis.
The topic sentence of your concluding paragraph should be restating your thesis in different words. The main idea of your conclusion is to wrap up all of your great ideas and remind the reader why you are correct.
How to build a thesis? You need to have done some good thinking about your topic. Probably your teacher will help you brainstorm. The thesis can be the hardest part of writing - but if you think of a really good thesis, the rest of your writing should come easily.
Some teachers have a very specific model for your thesis. If your teacher doesn't tell you otherwise, here is one model:
[Occasion], [claim] because/by/through/etc [support 1], [support 2], and [support 3].
- An occasion sets the stage. It starts with words like despite/if/while/though/in/when.
- The claim is the centerpiece: the opinion or argument.
- The supports back up the claim, and each one will become the focus point of one paragraph.
Even though she is supposed to be the heroine of The Little Mermaid, Ariel is portrayed as incompetent and foolish because she is consistently late, daydreaming, and clumsy.
Here's a model:
Topic: Taylor Swift
Thesis: Though not everyone likes her music, Taylor Swift is the most successful singer of her generation because of her singing voice, her songwriting genius, and her magnetic stage presence.
Topic Sentence 1: Taylor Swift's singing is sweet and perfectly tuned to the time.
Topic Sentence 2: Though TayTay's singing is how we hear her, it is her songwriting skills, especially with lyrics, that make her listeners connect to her music.
Topic Sentence 3: Taylor shows skill not only in her original composition, but in the composition of her performance as a whole, from costuming to set arrangement to performance style.
Concluding Topic Sentence: Taylor's stage presence hooks live audience members, while those listening to recordings can also connect to her singing voice and the lyrics and tunes she writes.
Just flesh each of those topics out fully with 3-5 more sentences proving your points, and bam! You’ve got yourself a thesis. Happy writing!
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our Middle School homework tutors in NYC: How Middle Schoolers Can Manage Their Time, Getting the Most Out of an Academic Tutor, How to Survive Geography Tests.