Can I meet your introduction? Writing the introduction of the explanatory essay

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SWBAT effectively introduce topics by observing how the teacher models writing an introduction and then writing the introductory paragraphs (including thesis statement) of their explanatory essays about "A Voice" by Pat Mora.

Big Idea

Students write a detailed intro (as if their teacher is an idiot) to introduce the explanatory essay.

Do Now

10 minutes

For the "Do Now" today, students silently read the introduction on the Smart Board. Then, they will quickly take out their body paragraphs and read over them. I am choosing to have them do this because we will be writing the introduction today, and I want their essays to be fresh in their minds so that they will know what they are introducing. It will also give them a chance to recognize any errors or places where their writing may lack clarity.

Immediately after the "Do Now" I explain to students that we are going to make sure that we tie our essential question into our essay: What defines us? Since the poem, "A Voice," deals with the theme of establishing one's identity through finding their voice, we CAN address our essential question in this essay.

I am doing this because I want students to see the connection between what we are reading and writing and the question with which we started the unit.This will allow us to make important connections and distinctions between complex concepts, ideas, and texts we have read CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a . Further, can discuss how all of the texts we have read relate to the search for identity.

Building Knowledge: Model of an introduction

15 minutes

Today, I am telling my students that they are going to write as if I am an idiot. In other words, they must explain everything.

I will model how to write an introduction. I did not model the body of the essay, but I did provide an outline that would help them with organization and details. I am choosing to model the introduction because I have learned over the years that students struggle with the introduction and conclusion and frequently are at a loss for how to introduce their writing.

We'll start with "the hook." I first explain that it is important to hook the reader in that very first sentence. It's like fishing. You have one shot to get the fish on the hook---that's in the first sentence. Some writers prefer a question, some use a quote, and others simply choose a provocative statement. Either way, the first sentence (hook) in the essay must interest the reader so much that he/she wants to read more.

I ask students to take out their self-selected reading texts or choose a story from our anthology, and read the first sentence. I ask them to do this because they need to see how writers hook the reader. I ask several students to share the hooks their texts. I allow a few students to share their hooks. Students give the thumbs up or thumbs down as they listen to the hooks in order to evaluate whether or not they would want to read the book based on the first sentence.  Hopefully this will give them some ideas about the types of words and sentence constructions that hook the reader. This is another sneaky way of introducing students to texts that they might want to read for SSR in the future--Yep, I sometimes trick my students into reading...guilty as charged.

Students exercise their legs and brains by going up to the Smart Board to label the parts or by using the ActivSlate (a device for writing on the Smart Board from anywhere in the room) to label the parts of the introduction.

The parts we are labeling are 1) the hook, 2) the author's name and title, 3) background information, 4) preview of ideas that will be presented in the essay, 5) explanation of a tableau, and 6) thesis statement.

Here's the flipchart that shows how we label the parts of the introduction. In order to view this resource, you must download the free ActivInspire software from the Promethean Planet site.

Application: Writing the hook

15 minutes

At this point, I am pausing to allow students to introduce the topic by writing the hook (first sentence) of their essay (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a) .  They will spend 10 minutes developing an effective hook statement, referring back to my hook and those that they shared from the self-selected reading texts.

After 10 minutes or so, I allow them to work with a partner to share their hooks and gauge whether or not it will hook the audience--no matter who they are.

I will also allow some students to share out their hooks with the whole group. In fact, their partners can nominate their hooks if they think they are effective. The key question that students will answer as their peers share out is: Why is this hook interesting? I am asking them to do this because I want them to think about why a particular statement might be effective at the beginning of an essay.

Application: Writing the introduction

25 minutes

Now, students get a shot at developing the rest of the introduction by organizing background information (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a) and the thesis statement for their essay. This is SILENT WRITING TIME! The only sounds I want to hear are the sounds of ideas jumping out of their heads and onto the paper---oh and the occasional sound of the pencil or pen as it glides across the paper.

I quietly check in with students to see if they need additional support and I hover behind them to take a peak at their introductions.

Check out this video of a student's first draft of their introduction.

Closure: Sharing our Introductions

15 minutes

In the closure for today, I want to check in to see if the modeled introduction was a success. I also want to give students another opportunity to hear and evaluate other students' writing as well as practice presenting information clearly and logically so that listeners can follow (CCSS.ELA Literacy.SL.9-10.4). I'll ask for several volunteers to share their introductions using the document camera. Here are two examples: sharing student 1 and Sharing student 2.

As an audience, we'll give warm feedback on the strengths of the writing, and we'll give constructive (cool) feedback on areas of improvement. I am choosing to do this because you never know when a struggling writer will have an "AHA" moment. They need multiple opportunities to read, discuss, and evaluate their writing.