Suppose you need to write a persuasive or argumentative essay, as do many seventh graders whose states are following the Common Core curriculum. Suppose you need to take a position on the following statement: Santa Claus is real.
You decide to take the position that yes, Santa is real. For your evidence, you use the following points:
- The Weather Channel and many other news media track Santa’s whereabouts all over the world on Christmas Eve.
- Santa’s image is used in advertising by Coca Cola and retailers during the Christmas season.
- Many movies have been made featuring Santa, including Miracle on 34th Street, The Polar Express, The Santa Claus I, II and III and A Christmas Story.
For your first body paragraph topic sentence, you write, “Many television and radio stations track Santa’s sleigh and reindeer around the world on Christmas Eve.” If you add, “thus proving Santa is real,” you have a perfect topic sentence. Then to back up your topic sentence, you list TV and radio stations which do this.
So far so good.
You start your second body paragraph with, “Second, Coca Cola and other retailers use Santa’s image to sell items.” The problem here is, “second” what? You need to say something like, “A second reason to prove that Santa is real is that Coco Cola and other retailers. . .”
Every sentence in every body paragraph should support the topic sentence of that paragraph. Just as importantly, every topic sentence should support the essay’s thesis. Some students think, well of course, if I say “second,” the reader knows that what I mean is that this is the second reason why Santa is real. Not so. You need to say that.
You always need to state the connections between the evidence and your topic sentences, and between your topic sentences and your thesis.
In working with students writing persuasive essays, I see this lack of connections all the time. To show the flow of connections, I draw arrows on students’ essays. One group of arrows goes from the data in a body paragraph to the topic sentence of that body paragraph. Another arrow goes from that topic sentence to the thesis or topic sentence of the whole essay found in the first paragraph. If the connections is not stated, I draw the arrows with dashes rather than with solid lines to show that the connection is not explicit.
Make your connections obvious.