1 Akilkis

Writing A Thematic Essay Graphic Organizer

When we have sufficiently debriefed from the Socratic Seminar, I transition my students into a prewriting activity for their next essay, which will require that they identify and defend a theme in Of Mice and Men.

I distribute a Theme Exploration Graphic Organizer to each student and instruct them to first focus on the side that has the web-like image on it.  I tell them to take around five minutes completing the sentence in the center of the web''"Of Mice and Men is a book about . . ."--by listing as many topics that they can think of, even adding more than I have provided spaces for, if necessary.  I encourage them to keep their topics limited to one word if they can (ex: loneliness, friendship, dreams, etc.), similarly to the way they began exploring theme in chapter four in a previous lesson.

When students have had time to brainstorm topics on their own, I then ask for volunteers to share their topics with the whole group.  I instruct my students to add topics to their lists that they may have missed, as they listen to what their peers share.

The next step is to have my students select the the topic that "speaks to them the most," the one that has left the strongest impression on them, now that we have completed the book.  Once they have selected their topic, I then direct them to the bottom of their graphic organizer, where they must figure out what Steinbeck is trying to get his readers to notice about that topic.  I remind my students that this is how themes are expressed--not as single words (topics), but as complete sentences about those single words.  I further stress to them that a theme needs to be a message that feels worthwhile, something that is gained from having read the work, and not an idea that we essentially already knew (EX: "Everyone will die someday."  Not a theme).  I remind them that themes either teach us something new that we hadn't realized before, especially in the way a text might portray it, or remind us that something is important that we may have forgotten is important.

My theme speech is never a one-shot deal; I find that I often repeat it several times throughout a school year, as many students still want themes to be single words.  

After my students have had a few minutes to write out their themes, I ask for student volunteers to share with the whole group.  This is critical to do as a whole group, as it gives my students an opportunity to hear each others attempts, to discuss whether or not what they have written would work as a supportable theme, and for me to help reshape them in front of an attentive audience. Through this whole-group sharing, assessing, reshaping process, the goal is to break as many theme-as-single-word habits as possible.


  Writing a thematic essay is a required component of every Global History and Geography Regents examination.  While some students may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of writing a thematic essay, all students can learn to master the fine art of thematic essay writing. 


  It is important to remember that a thematic essay is an essay based on a particular theme from the Global History and Geography curriculum.  After the stated theme, students are given a task which they must complete in essay format regarding the theme.  Finally, students are provided a list of potential topics to write about regarding the theme. 


  Unlike a Document Based Essay Question, a thematic essay does not provide actual documents to answer the essay question.  Instead, students must possess a prior knowledge base to answer the essay thoroughly.  However, given the multiplicity of suggestions, students will invariably find several suggested topics that they can use to effectively write the essay.  Thematic essay writing is possible if students remember several important guidelines for successful writing.  On this page, students will find guidelines as well as outlines of previous Regents thematic essays.

First, the Guidelines!

1.     Read the theme carefully.  The theme is the essay’s big idea.  It is critical that students understand the theme and begin to think about the various ways the theme has occurred throughout history.

2.     Read the task box carefully.  The task box provides the essay’s directions.  It is critical that students understand exactly what they are expected to write about in the essay.  Answering the questions in the task box thoroughly and accurately is more important than merely defending the theme.  The essay is graded based on the writer’s ability to address every task in the task box.


3.     Make an outline before you proceed.  The task box will provide the categories necessary for an effective outline.  Students must list the tasks that need to be addressed.  Frequently, tasks have more than one component.  For example, if two individuals are to be included in the essay, make certain that your outline has spaces for each individual.  On this page, you will find many samples of outlines for thematic essays.  Continue scrolling down the page and open the provided links to view effective outlining techniques.


4.     Write the essay’s first draft.  Yes, write a first draft of your essay using your outline.  An essay must include an introductory paragraph stating the theme and its importance in world history, several body paragraphs that specifically address the essay’s tasks, and a concluding paragraph summarizing the essay’s main ideas.  Your first draft will include all of the essay’s vital information but may need minor revisions to ensure the highest quality of writing.  Hopefully, if time permits, you can edit it for excellence.


5.     Write your final draft.  If time permits, write your final draft.  Edit your writing for greater clarity and grammatical sophistication.  Don’t be satisfied with merely answering the questions.  Strive for excellence in written communication.


6.     Lastly, remember that you can write an effective thematic essay.  If you follow the guidelines for successful writing and study your Key Word packets (See the Key Words, Key Connections Page on this site), a brilliantly written thematic essay is possible.


Links to Outlines!

  The following links provide outlines to previously assigned thematic essays.  Read the themes and task boxes carefully before examining the outlines.  The outlines are clear reflections of the themes and tasks.


Advice on How to Organize an Essay and Write a Strong Body Paragraph 





















Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *