A Great Beginning Makes Us Stop, Think, and Read

26 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT...orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters by writing an introduction that uses one of the five forms of "great" beginnings

Big Idea

First impressions are everything when it comes to attracting your readers to story! When writers use creative opening sentences they attract readers who want to read more about what will happen next in their stories.

Creating the Purpose

15 minutes

 In this lesson students will be focusing on how to write creative openers for narrative story writing. I am encouraging them to think of both their readers interests and their topics and to create a "great beginning" sentence that will make their stories attract their targeted audiences.

I open the lesson by having students work at table groups with instructions to read the worksheet What Makes a Great Beginning and match the beginning sentences with the correct type of great beginning. Then each team will identify the key words that helped them in the passages (RL 5.2). Students are instructed to share out and debate their responses with each other and then as a whole class (SL 5.1d).

My purpose with this opener is to get them to understand that authors can use more than one strategy in their opening sentences and that each type of opener creates a different insight into the story plot.

I ask students to read the statement and question openers and to share how they are different and then similar. I do the same with the sound and the action one. I ask what picture each created for the reader? How are they different? Similar? (SL 5.1d)

I share the objective that we will write great openers in each format to build understanding of the different ways good writers can begin their stories. (W 5.3a) 

Guiding the Learning

15 minutes

Since my students have not had much practice of all the ways we start great openers in narrative writing, I ask them to help me build a chart on the board with the four different great beginning strategies

Students respond and I write: sound/ action, question, dialogue, statement/ fact. I share that authors use these forms of openers to create interest for the readers. Before I have them conduct the book search activity I read aloud a few openers and ask them to identify which type of opener each book employs (this helps to take away the confusion over where the great opener should be found – first sentence in the book vs in the first paragraph). I read the Writing Great Openers Examples and ask them after each one to identify the type of technique used and the key words that helped them identify it (SL 5.1d, RL 5.1).

I then divide them into groups of three students and tell them that they will now get the opportunity to go to our classroom library and find books that have an example of these openers. Each group is assigned to a type of opener, given a sentence strip and instructed to write the opener example, the book title, and the author on it. When they are done – they will attach it to the correct area on the board so that we can visibly see all of the ways authors can begin a piece of narrative writing (RL 5.2, SL 5.1d).

I give all groups the signal and the hunt begins! (at this time you need to monitor that all participate, groups discuss their findings, books get put back in the correct locations and each works within the time limitations you set)

Once students have found their books and attached their sentence strip to the board, we meet together to discuss the results (SL 5.1c, W 5.9a). In the following video you will see examples of each group’s findings and the questions I ask to prompt the audience into building a deeper understanding of the relationship between the book types and the purpose for the author’s choice of words. 

Here's a sample of what our posters looked like

Independent Learning

20 minutes

Students will now get the opportunity to apply their knowledge and write their own beginnings. I give them the Techniques That Will Hook Your Readers Worksheet and we read the prompt together (feel free to change it to fit your students’ interests). I first model in a think aloud that I am on a strange new planet. I then share the five ways I could begin a story using my same theme (W 5.5). I take student questions before I have them begin and leave the examples from the book search activity posted on the board.  

I circulate and help students get started – prompting with where are you? Who is with you? What do you see? Hear? Feel? etc. to get them creating a mental picture before they begin to respond. My struggling students are asked to talk out their thinking with their partners and/or to draw it out in visual pictures before they begin their writing. This helps them to place their thoughts and words in order before they apply them to paper.  

Those who finish early I pair up together and have them share and edit each other’s work (W 5.5).



Closing the Loop

10 minutes

Students come together and I ask them to think about the type of story they are planning to write. I then ask them to choose their favorite beginning and to think about why that would be a good one to get their reader’s interested in their story. Students share their ideas and reasons for this choice and chose a favorite writer at their table. (SL 5.1d) Students turn in their openers so that I can evaluate their areas of strength and need (W 5.5). They will get these back to use in their final stories if they chose this topic.   

We then choose a favorite from all table groups. This student was the top choice for the lesson. Here's a video of him sharing his writing. I want them to begin to build an understanding of how they need to write their stories with their audience in mind.   


I close by asking them what is the purpose of a great beginning? And why do authors use different great beginning strategies? I close the lesson with this question because I want them to end thinking about how the use of these openers creates interest in readers and encourages them to read further into the book or writing. We will continue to develop this idea in the next lessons.