Workshop 5: Essay Introductions


Objectives:
  • To introduce the characteristics of a good introductory paragraph
  • To present a list of effective “attention-grabbing” devices
  • To discuss how and why good introductions move from general to specific
  • To introduce the qualities and placement of an effective thesis statement
Materials:
  • Overhead projector
  • Optional: blank transparency and transparency markers
  • Transparency reproductions of “Introduction Checklist” (See Example) and “A Menu of Essay ‘Appetizers’” (See Example)
  • Transparencies of an effective and an ineffective sample introduction, taken from your teaching files 5
  • Copies of “Jumbled Introductions” (See Example), one for each student
  • Transparency reproduction of “Un-jumbled Introduction” (See Example) or one copy for each student
Procedure:
  • Using the “Introduction Checklist” transparency, explain to students that these are the qualities that college English instructors look for in their students’ introductory paragraphs. 
  • Briefly explain/define the four criteria, stressing the notions that writing is communication and that introductions provide readers with an important “first impression.”
  • Point out that although all these criteria are important, you will be focusing on the first two; refer to “Does the intro grab our attention?” and “Does the intro move from general to specific?” on the “Introduction Checklist.”
  • Explain to students that the first thing an introduction should do is grab the readers’ attention and interest them in reading the essay.  A number of analogies may be helpful here.  For example, the introduction can be compared to making a good first impression when you meet someone for the first time. 
  • Put a transparency of  “A Menu of Essay ‘Appetizers’” on the overhead projector and explain that just as an appetizer prepares you for a delicious meal, the introduction should prepare the readers for an interesting and well-written essay.  Explain that there are many ways to grab the readers’ attention, and then go through each of the examples on the transparency. 
  • Return to the transparency of the “Introduction Checklist” and explain that you will now discuss the second criteria,  “Does the intro move from general to specific?” 
  • Draw a triangle with the point on the bottom on the board or on a clean transparency.  Explain that you are using this to represent the “shape” of the introductory paragraph.  The introduction should begin somewhat generally and become increasingly more specific with the most specific ideas, the thesis statement, at or near the end of the paragraph. 
  • Following is an analogy that amuses students and helps explain the “why” behind this move from general to specific: 
If you passed someone in the hall whom you thought was attractive, would you just walk up to him or her and say, "Hi.  You’re cute.  Wanna go out?”  No.  You’d at least introduce yourself and chat a bit.  You’d try to get the person interested in you, so he or she would want to go out with you. 
  • Explain that between the “general” attention-grabber and the “specific” thesis, the ideas need to connect logically.  Distribute copies of “Jumbled Introductions” and ask the students to complete the exercise.  Explain the instructions if necessary.  After they have completed the exercises, begin with the first paragraph and ask the students, “Which sentence did you put as number 1?”  Continue through all sentences for first paragraph and show or refer to the “un-jumbled” paragraph before going on to the second paragraph.  There may be some legitimate disagreements about the proper order of some paragraphs, so discuss the reasoning behind the differences of opinion. 
  • If time allows, present some sample introductory paragraphs on the overhead projector.  Discuss the positive and negative features.

Introduction Checklist 


Does the intro paragraph grab our attention?
Does the intro paragraph move from general to specific?
Does the intro paragraph flow smoothly?
Does the intro paragraph provide necessary background info?
Does the intro paragraph address the audience?

A Menu of Essay “Appetizers”

 An interesting fact or unusual detail

  • The person next to you has 23 forms of bacteria on his or her skin.
 An intriguing statement
  • I have decided that I do not really have to pay attention in class.
 An anecdote or short story
  • As I walked down the street, a guy with pink hair and 3 nose rings asked me if I knew about the alien convention downtown. . . . 
 A question your essay will answer
  • Are you tired of actually having to pay for your clothes? 
 An appropriate quotation
  • “To be or not to be, that is the question.”  But what does that Shakespeare guy know anyway? 
 An illustration 
  • John Smith knows first hand what it’s like to be ridiculed for being a genius.   When he was 3 years old, he was doing algebra.



Jumbled Introductions

Instructions: Below are four jumbled introductory paragraphs.  Keeping in mind that introductions should move in a logical way from general to specific, place the sentences in the proper using “1” to indicate the first sentence in each introduction, “2” to indicate the second sentence, etc.

Paragraph 1:

____ Is there any hope in sight?

____ Run, don't walk, to the nearest Taco Bell.

____ It's 2 a.m., you're starving, and all you have in your refrigerator is some yogurt with an expiration date of 5-2-93.

____ Well, I have the solution to your early-morning munchies. 

____ At Taco Bell you can get a wide variety of tasty food in a pleasant atmosphere--and you might even have change left.

____ Not only that, you only have $2.31 until payday. 

____ Imagine the following scenario. 
 

Paragraph 2:

___ At Taco Bell, you can get a quick, tasty meal at a price you can afford, and you don't have to necessarily blow your fat intake for the week.

____ Many people today think that fast food means bad food. 

____ Fortunately for us college students, who are usually short of both time and money, there is a healthy alternative.

____ They think that fast food is by definition full of fat and short of nutrition.
 

Paragraph 3:

____ Does this sound like an impossible dilemma? 

____ In that same survey, 73% of LSU students admitted to being broke most of the time. 

____ I'm happy to tell these starving but penniless people that Taco Bell offers tasty, authentic Mexican food at a price even they can afford.

____ In a recent survey, 67% of the student population at LSU said that they crave Mexican food at least once a week.
 

Paragraph 4:

____ We as Americans have been blessed by a plethora of restaurants that give us food that is at least quick and cheap. 

____ "Fast food is the cornerstone of American democracy," declared U.S. President Bill Clinton at a recent power lunch in Washington D.C. 

____ But, if you'd like to add "tasty" and "imaginative" to that list of adjectives, and support your country in the process, then I suggest you try Taco Bell. 

____ Clinton may have been overstating the case a little, but he was correct in pointing to one of the mainstays of the average American diet.



Key to Jumbled Introductions 

Paragraph 1:
Imagine the following scenario.  It's 2 a.m., you're starving, and all you have in your refrigerator is some yogurt with an expiration date of 5-2-93.  Not only that, you only have $2.31 until payday.  Is there any hope in sight?  Well, I have the solution to your early-morning munchies.  Run, don't walk, to the nearest Taco Bell.  At Taco Bell you can get a wide variety of tasty food in a pleasant atmosphere--and you might even have change left.

Paragraph 2:
Many people today think that fast food means bad food.  They think that fast food is by definition full of fat and short of nutrition.  Fortunately for us college students, who are usually short of both time and money, there is a healthy alternative.  At Taco Bell, you can get a quick, tasty meal at a price you can afford, and you don't have to necessarily blow your fat intake for the week.

Paragraph 3: 
In a recent survey, 67% of the student population at LSU said that they crave Mexican food at least once a week.  In that same survey, 73% of LSU students admitted to being broke most of the time.  Does this sound like an impossible dilemma?  I'm happy to tell these starving but penniless people that Taco Bell offers tasty, authentic Mexican food at a price even they can afford.

Paragraph 4:
"Fast food is the cornerstone of American democracy," declared U.S. President Bill Clinton at a recent power lunch in Washington D.C.  Clinton may have been overstating the case a little, but he was correct in pointing to one of the mainstays of the average American diet.  We as Americans have been blessed by a plethora of restaurants that give us food that is at least quick and cheap.  But, if you'd like to add "tasty" and "imaginative" to that list of adjectives, and support your country in the process, then I suggest you try Taco Bell. 



5 If the students drafted full evaluation essays for Workshop Four, the introductions from those essays may be used.

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