When I realized that students don’t know how to come up with ideas for essays and write thesis statements, I started creating exercises where they are required to come up with thesis statements for imaginary essays on the basis of the readings we do in the course.
“I bet you couldn’t come up with a thesis for this short story on the spot,” a student mumbled under his breath.
“Oh, really? How much would you bet?” I said.
Then I went to the board and created 6 original, completely different thesis statements for the short story on the spot.
“Should I continue?” I asked then.
“No,” students said in awed little voices.
This is why they like me in spite of the endless written assignments, complex readings, and my very anal obsession with the minutiae of the formal requirements.
I also really love it when they start bombarding me with “What does this word mean?” In about 30 minutes of that, I acquire enormous authority and respect. I don’t just give translations for words, of course. I also immediately provide strings of synonyms and explain the etymology of words.