Students learn about the importance of introductions and conclusions when writing an essay.
We all know the importance of teaching students to write clear, well-structured essays. After all, the essay is the basic of most academic writing. But we also know that teaching essay writing is not easy. An introduction and conclusion are vital elements of a good essay.
The introduction of an essay serves two purposes: it clarifies what the essay is about, and it grabs the readers interest. The first goal is straightforward. The second is more challenging.
Ask students to think about some of their favorite movies. Ask them to think about how the movies begin. They will probably discover that most movies begin with a dramatic or suspenseful opening. This is called a hook. Whether it is a bit of slapstick humor or a violent encounter, the hook is intended to get you involved with the story right away and keep you watching. The same principle applies to essay writing.
Tell students that this does not mean that they must begin their essays with a sensational opening. However, they should interest the reader by showing, not telling. Read the following two sentences to them:
"Kids eat a lot of food that is really bad for them."
"The sugar-coated purple cereal is disappearing as you slurp it down with chocolate milk."
The first sentence does a good job of clarifying the topic. But which did students prefer? The second version is more lively, beginning with a story line and grabbing the interest of the reader. The words are lively and we are shown someone eating instead of being told about it.
The first sentence does not have to be quite so dramatic to catch the interest of the reader. A sentence that gets the reader involved can also work. For example-"What do you think of when you hear the words health food?"
The primary purpose of the conclusion is to bring the paper to an end, to wrap it up. Like introductions, good conclusions are interesting, leaving the reader with a strong sense of the paper. You should mention the points that you just covered, but you don't need to spell them out. This can be done in a number of ways. Read the following two conclusion sentences to students:
"In conclusion, eating healthful foods makes a lot of sense."
"So, the next time you pop that jaw breaker into your mouth, the next time you eat oily potato chips for dinner, remember that there are tasty choices that won't hurt your body."
The first sentence is OK. It uses the helpful phrase in conclusion and reminds the reader what he or she just read. But ask students again which sentence they preferred. The second example is livelier and brings the essay to a close while keeping the reader involved. It also has the same kinds of story line as the second introduction. This is called an envelope strategy, which is common in essay and story writing. You open and close your essay in the same way. This helps to give your essay a sense of order.
Distribute copies of the Introductions and Conclusions activity sheet to students and have them try writing some interesting and lively introductions and conclusions.
- Introductions and Conclusions activity sheet (one per student)
- pencils or pens