Four-Step Introductory Paragraph Format

Ready to dig into some nuts-and-bolts of essay writing? Let’s talk about how to help our middle school and high school students write strong intro. paragraphs. Note: This format works great when teaching literary analysis, argument, and research essays, but narratives are a whole different story. (Heh…see what I did there?)

Introductory paragraph slides and handout (free):

How to teach theme materials (free):

Brainstorming organizers (free):

Hooks (paid):

“The Scarlet Ibis” lesson materials (paid):

“Thank You, Ma’am” lesson materials (paid):

Teach on, everyone!

22 thoughts on “Four-Step Introductory Paragraph Format

  1. hi laura! would you be able to make a video or write a blog post on how to teach students to write synthesis essays? thanks! 🙂

  2. Cannot thank you for this lesson enough…this is just what I needed for this week…the opening paragraphs of my 8th graders are not so hot! You just made my life easier and I can’t thank you enough…to thank you I’m buying your lesson on Hooks – as a treat to myself!

    Hugs and thanks!

  3. Great suggestion, Kelsi! Not sure when I’ll be able to get to this, but I just added it to my idea notebook. Stay tuned! 🙂

  4. My pleasure, MsMundy! And thanks for your purchase; it’ll cover my cup of coffee while I script out the next video. 😉

  5. Awesome stuff! Do you have specific Hook lessons? I would love to see examples of metaphors, analogies, etc. that you give to your kids. We struggle with this sooooo much!

  6. I love all of your materials. Will you be creating a post on conclusion paragraphs too? That would be awesome! Thank you! 🙂

  7. Thanks, Emily! Yes, I’m a little behind with everything, but I hope to build this next video/support materials and have it all uploaded late next week. Stay tuned! 🙂

  8. I big puffy heart EVERYTHING you put together, Laura! I love that you film in your car. It cracks me up thinking about passersby meandering along with no idea that you’re just hanging out, generating quality content for your fellow teachers. 🙂 Although I am no longer a teacher in a school setting (and never a high school teacher), your materials have prepared my homeschooled kids very well for high school. Thanks for rocking!

  9. Thanks, JulieAnn! I definitely get some funny looks from the other parents in the after school pick-up line, but those 15 minutes before my kid gets out of school are my best quiet, focused minutes of the day. I know it’s not as fancy as some of the home offices I see in other folks’ videos, but our house is small and pretty much all of my online work (including answering you right now) is done at the kitchen table while my husband’s watching college football, our daughter is walking around memorizing her lines for the school play (A Midsummer Night’s Dream – it’s been all Shakespeare all the time around here lately), and the dog is barking at…nothing. Yeah, total chaos. LOVE knowing that the video content is useful and that you don’t mind hanging out in my Hyundai. If you keep watching, I’ll keep filming. 😀

  10. Janice Middleton says:

    Thank you so much! I used your explanation of an effective introduction paragraph’s organization in my 7th grade English class this week. My students are writing a paired-text literary analysis essay in which they use evidence to show how a theme statement is shared by and supported in both Lois Lowry’s The Giver and in a poem of their choice.

    Any chance you might do one of these videos and share resources for how to write a conclusion paragraph in a literary analysis essay?

  11. Janice, your timing couldn’t be better! I just finished filming the concluding paragraph support video and will edit it all together tonight. Look for the conclusion paragraph resources to be uploaded Saturday morning (fingers-crossed!) or Sunday, at the latest. 😀

  12. Thank you so much for this video series! I’ve been using your theme, brainstorming organizers, and intro paragraph materials with great success! I was wondering if you have any materials or ideas for helping freshmen write their body paragraphs, in particular with writing fresh topic sentences and transition words/phrases? Thank you again, and know that you’re reaching lives out here in Buffalo, NY!

  13. Thanks, Cherie, for your note of support. So glad the materials are a match for your classroom! I don’t yet have the body paragraph lessons put together. Sorry about that. Those materials are definitely on my long-term project “to do” list, but life is getting pretty crazy over here and I’m not sure when I’m going to have the time to put everything together. I’m running as fast as I can, but these old knees are starting to wobble. Be patient with me, yes? 🙂

  14. I would love to have one of these resources for body paragraphs too….maybe in all your free time???

  15. I hear you, Ashley. I would, too. I’ve actually sat down several times to try to script and film my body paragraph advice video, but it’s been a struggle because I use copyrighted material for that part of the writing process.

    For literary analysis, I use a modification of the Jane Schaffer method, which I don’t have permission to share. Her work is described in some detail here:

    For argument, I don’t teach a sentence-by-sentence formula for body paragraphs, but I do have kids dig into exemplar examples as we “deconstruct the essay” and they learn about the placement of claim, reasons, evidence, and counterclaims. Those materials, though, are part of my paid product ( and I haven’t had the time/energy to build fresh examples of this to share on the blog.

    Finally, research paper body paragraphs (I use a blog approach instead of a traditional academic paper) is taught via modeling. Since this piece is more conversational in tone, I don’t teach a sentence-by-sentence formula here, either. The model is included in my paid product ( and some of the same issues I face with my argument writing product apply here.

    Narrative is, obviously, a totally different critter and formulas wouldn’t apply.

    So…yeah…I’ve struggled with this topic. I mean, maybe I should make a video about the struggle, but I don’t think that’d be too interesting or helpful for folks. I do appreciate your question and interest, though. I’ll continue to let this one roll around my brain. I never know when inspiration for a solution will appear, though it’s usually around 3 a.m. in the midst of a crazy-busy week. 🙂


  16. Your videos help me with my classwork thanks

  17. C00l M0M :) says:

    I love ur vid! sending love from kansas!

  18. Thanks so much, C00l M0M! Glad you’re here with me. 🙂

  19. i love it

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