Monday, May 2, 2011

Venus Flytrap Helps Me Write A Thesis Statement

NOTE: Again, something from the basic English course I'm teaching.

I have a video for you to watch – all of about 4 minutes long – that perfectly encapsulates what we’re learning this week.

This video contains a brief, snappy thesis statement that embodies everything in the “Writing a Thesis” presentation (thinking small but covering that small bit thoroughly) and expressing the idea with attitude – clearly answering the question “What do you want your readers to know?”

Here’s the thesis statement:

I can give you the basics of the atom in two minutes.

And here’s the video. It’s a clip from the television show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” which I watched a lot as a kid. Yes, I am old.

Used under the fair use doctrine for educational purposes.

As you’re watching, consider these questions (taken from the “Showing vs. Telling” presentation):
  • How does Venus Flytrap make his details do useful work?
  • What description does he include?
  • How does he let dialogue do the showing, rather than him doing the telling?
  • How does he use lists, repetition, and spatial relationships to support his telling?
  • And finally – How in the end does his showing help him support his thesis?
As CS Lewis advises: “Let me taste for myself and you’ll have no need to tell me how I should react to the flavor.” Venus Flytrap, in describing the basics of the atom, shows his reluctant pupil everything he needs to know about the structure of the atom in a way that let his pupil taste for himself, rather than being told to react to the flavor.

As you listen to and read the “This I Believe” segments assigned this week and prepare to write your own thesis statement, please keep these questions in mind. As you read and listen, draw out how the authors rely on detail, description, dialogue, repetition, lists, and other elements to show, rather than tell, why they believe what they believe.


Maaike said...

Brian, you are so dang cool!!

Mister Fweem said...

With Venus Flytrap on my side, how could I lose? Well, none of my students have reacted to it yet. I get a lot of stunned bunny looks. Virtual ones.