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9.12: Assignment: Writing Effective Intros Activity

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    Instructor Guidelines

    Time: 50 min.-1 hr 15 min.

    Materials needed:

    • students need original intro from an essay
    • 8 Ways to Begin an Essay handout


    1. Have students copy and paste the introductory paragraph from any essay on to a blank word document.
    2. Watch the YouTube video “How to write introductory paragraphs” and discuss the different ways to begin an essay. Provide the supplemental handout (see below)—8 Ways to begin an essay.
    3. Have students look at their current introduction. Ask: What method did you use to write your intro? Title it “Intro 1—Method”. i.e. Intro 1—Anecdote or Intro 1—Quotation. Type the label above the paragraph. You may have used more than one method or no method at all. You can note such in the label.
    4. Now, choose two other methods for beginning the essay. For example, if you already started with questions, then try writing a new intro by starting with a quote. Then try another intro starting with one of the other methods. You can choose any method you like.
    5. The new intros should be completely different. The topic should not change in anyway and the thesis will remain the same. They are simply writing new intros for the chosen essay.
    6. Once they have written the two new intros, they should clear their desks of everything except the three intros. They should also keep a writing utensil.
    7. Play music and have the students walk around. When the music stops, they sit at someone else’s desk. They read the three intros and mark which one they find most interesting. They can mark it with a star or checkmark or something. Do this for as many rounds as time allows. Toward the end of class, have them return to their original seat and see which intro their classmates liked best. Then have a discussion to see who thinks they will use their new intro for the next draft of the essay.

    8 Ways to Begin Your Essay



    1. Use a rhetorical question–Pose a question related to your subject and then answer it (or invite your readers to answer it). This will get the reader think about your topic.
      • Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be cold and hungry every night? To not have a warm bed to lie in? To not have friends or family to take care of you? This is what over 1.5 million Americans face every day (
    2. State an interesting fact about your subject.
      • In 2014, 1.49 million people used temporary shelter and another 578, 000 didn’t have shelter at all, sleeping in tents, cars, and doorways when the required “point-in-time” survey took place which is required by the federal government every two year during which volunteers walk around cities counting the homeless (
    3. Present your thesis as a recent discovery or revelation.
      • I’ve finally figured out how we can solve the issue of homelessness—we must make these people visible and provide the housing they need to get them off the streets.
    4. Briefly describe the place that serves as the primary setting of your essay.
      • It was a bitter cold night as I weaved my way through the crowds of homeless people standing around metal barrels, blazing with fire, under the interstate exchange. A hard wind blew through the tunnel, and the men and women huddled together around the fires to gather whatever warmth they could. The place was barren minus a few shopping carts filled with bags of recyclables. All around me, people slept on the ground on top of cardboard boxes covered with the newspapers. The lucky few had ratty sleeping bags or torn blankets to cover themselves with.
    5. Recount an incident that dramatizes your subject.
      • One October afternoon as I walking through Cambridge square, I was struck by the sad eyes of a young man asking for money. He couldn’t have been more than 18. His face was dirty and his hair was greasy. He wore mismatched clothes and his toes poked through the holes in his shoes. I didn’t have any cash, so I gave him a granola bar from lunch bag. I wondered how he ended up here. I wondered how we might be able to help him.
    6. Use the narrative strategy of delay: put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers’ interest without frustrating them.
      • We see them everywhere in the city. On the street corners. In the subways. Even more so, we might smell them. The pungent odor of onions and celery. We smell their leftover urine in the elevator carts. We hear them ask for money. We hear them shake their cups, clinking like tic tacs. They are the homeless.
    7. Using the historical present tense, relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now.
      • I pull up to the intersection. The light turns red, so I must stop. A man with a sign and a dog stands on the street corner. I make eye contact. His sign says he’s hungry. I always carry snacks, so I roll down my window and give him two tangerines. He thanks me with a toothless smile. That was ten years ago and the first time I had given something to a homeless person. That was just the beginning. Now, it has become my cause—my passion.
    8. Reveal a secret about yourself or make a candid observation about your subject.
      • I try to avoid contact. If I don’t make eye contact, I won’t feel badly about giving him nothing. I can’t help it. I look up at him at the very last minute. He stands without putting weight one foot. His sign says he just had surgery—that he’s a homeless vet—that he’s been sober for 33 years. I offer him a granola bar. He says he can’t eat that because his mouth is wired shut. I keep walking. The guilt overcomes me and I wish I could do more.


    A handout of this activity can be found here.


    9.12: Assignment: Writing Effective Intros Activity is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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