Writing Introductions: “Attention Grabber” In-Class Activity

During the first writing project of the semester, I did a couple of units on the different parts of an essay (introductions, body paragraphs/topic sentences, and conclusions). Several of my students referenced the helpfulness of a workshop that we did on introductions and, more specifically, “attention grabbers” in their reflections of the first writing project, so I thought I would share the lesson and exercise we completed that day.

Click here, if you’d like to view the Powerpoint slides. Otherwise, read on…

Introduction hello my name is inigo montoya

via Flickr, photo by oxygeon

This lesson explains the parts of an introduction: The attention grabber, the background information, and the thesis statement. The background information doesn’t need to be much, maybe just 2-3 sentences, but it should “set the scene” for the analysis that follows.

For this project, I told students that the thesis statement must be the last sentence of their introduction. Thesis statements are, quite possibly, the most important part of a paper for inexperienced writers; papers without thesis statements tend to be unfocused and usually have weaker overall arguments.

So, how to begin a paper? Attention grabbers are difficult things to figure out. After some quick research, I found general consensus on the most common types of attention grabbers:

  • Quotations
  • Startling Statistics
  • A question
  • An anecdote
  • Something that you think your intended audience can relate to

Please note that for quotations (especially anyone reading this who isn’t an English teacher!) that sentences should never start with a quotation mark, always make sure to introduce your quote in some manner (According to… Famous scholar John Smith states… etc.).

The activity that followed this lesson was simple. Students spent a few moments brainstorming three different attention grabbers for their essay. They were free to use any combination of the most common types of attention grabbers.

After students had three options written down, they separated into small groups (3-4 students). Each student shared their three attention grabbers, and the other group members gave feedback. Group members were asked to say which ones worked, which ones didn’t, and a reason as to why they did/didn’t work.

And that’s it! Pretty simple, but students found it really helpful.

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