Writing

Rework the Prompt to Serve as an Introduction

Posted on February 20, 2017

Rework the Prompt to Serve as an Introduction

QUESTION: How can I prepare students to write an introduction to an extended-response prompt?

ANSWER: An extended reading response requires a 3-5 paragraph essay. This merits a longer introductory paragraph that identifies the purpose, addresses the topic, and includes a thesis statement. You can show students how to build an introduction using the sentences of the original prompt. Target your explicit instruction in four areas:

Repurpose the background information.

Reveal a sample prompt and point out the first sentence or two. Explain that this part of the prompt is often background information about the topic in general and can be repurposed as the first sentences of their introduction. Those sentences provide context for the rest of the essay.

Sample Prompt School ProjectSample Prompt Annotated School Project

When this background information identifies the texts that were read, students should plan to repeat the titles within their introductory paragraphs, too. For example, After reading the quotation by Theodore Roosevelt and the excerpt from The School Book of Forestry...

State the thesis.

Now comes the opinion or thesis statement that answers the prompt question. Again, model how to simply reword the task as it's stated in the prompt. For example, Planting trees is the best project for our school to adopt.

Be sure students also introduce their reasons for this claim. They could do this by simply adding for three reasons at the end of this thesis statement. Or, they could insert a colon and list their three reasons. Any one of these options identifies the organizational structure for the remaining body paragraphs.

Adjust pronouns & verbs.

Throughout the process, show students how to adjust the pronouns and verb tenses to create an appropriate perspective and timeframe.

Sample Prompt Flavored MilkSample Prompt Annotated Flavored Milk

Omit "Be sure to include" information.

In addition to revealing how to reuse much of the original prompt, also identify what needs to be omitted. Strikethrough all directions about citing evidence, about referencing the articles provided, about utilizing correct grammar and punctuation, etc. None of this explanatory information should be included in their introductions.

Although these four steps may not craft a WOW! introduction, they will support students in generating a solid opening. For many, that's what they need--an alternative to This essay will be about...

NOTE: This strategy is for informative, persuasive, or argumentative responses. It is not appropriate for narrative writing prompts. Those introductions require students to start with characters in a setting with a problem.