Foolproof Essay Introduction Tricks

by Jimmie Lanley on April 17, 2012

Foolproof Essay Introduction Tricks

Every writer is different. Some are compelled to write an essay from start to finish. Others are fine with writing the body paragraphs first and then going back to write an introduction and a conclusion. Either method is fine, of course.

But if your child struggles with starting an essay, even after doing quite a bit of quality prewriting, encourage her to skip the intro paragraph until after she has composed the body. After all, how can you introduce what doesn’t yet exist? In a sense, it is quite logical to first write the body and later write an introduction for it.

Whenever the introduction writing comes, here are some tips to make it a bit easier.

Bare Necessities of an Introduction Paragraph

An introduction paragraph at a bare minimum has to be  three sentences. The first two sentences are there to grab the reader’s attention. And the last sentence is the thesis statement that tells what the entire essay will be covering.

Writing a thesis statement is not difficult, but those two sentences before it can be a challenge. Remind your children that all they need are two additional sentences. That’s not a lot!

Attention Grabbers

Some people call those first two sentences a “hook.” The idea is that you start your essay with something catchy to grab the readers’ attention and keep them moving on through the essay.

These are classic, foolproof attention grabber techniques:

  • ask a question
  • tell a story
  • share a startling fact

1. Asking a Question

Avoid simply rephrasing your thesis statement into a question because that makes your introduction boring and repetitive. Instead, look at the topic from a slightly different angle and ask your question in that way.
If you can come up with a question that really makes your reader think, you’ve got a winner.

2. Tell a Story

Stories are powerful. And stories don’t have to be long. A story can be told in a few sentences, especially if you jump right into the relevant action with your very first sentence.
Paint a word picture that draws the reader into the essay. This technique is great for your creative writers who resist the structure of an expository essay. At least in the introduction (and later in the conclusion) they can exercise their creative writing skills.
Take your essay topic, and picture a situation that exemplifies it.  Now describe that scene.

3. Share a Startling Fact

In general, people love statistics. They make us feel smart.  Shocking facts that go against what we would have expected also have the power to grab our attention. So use them to your advantage.
This technique is great when your child has time to research and find a shocking fact. But if the essay is an on demand assignment, it is acceptable to make up a shocking fact or statistic for the sake of the essay. (I consider this creative license, but if you consider it lying, then you’d best allow for time to research or suggest one of the other methods.)

Printable Introduction Paragraph Planner

Here is a free printable page you can use with your students. It outlines the three foolproof attention grabbers mentioned in this post and reminds writers that they need only three sentences. Click the image to download it.

Be aware that some students will  misunderstand the graphic organizer and write the thesis statement separate from the attention grabber. Remind them that the printable page represents a single paragraph — indented once, and all together.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeanette April 18, 2012 at 6:48 am

Thank you so much for posting this! You are a God-send. My son struggles so much with writing. I need all the help I can get. I have yet to find a great writing program…but this is exactly what I have been wanting…something to make writing a ‘logical’ endeavor. Thanks again!


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