Starting essays—writing introductions—is one of the hardest writing challenges for many students. They look at white space on their notebook paper or on their laptop and wonder, “How do I begin?”
What if they had a template that worked? Here’s one I have developed for students who need to write an essay about some feature of a novel, film or play.
- First sentence: name the novel, name the author and identify the location of story and when the story takes place.
- Second, write a two-sentence summary of the story.
- Third, write a transition sentence to connect the summary to the main idea.
- Fourth, write the main idea (thesis).
Let’s try it out. Suppose a fourth-grader is writing about what a silly little brother Fudge is in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. How would that introduction begin?
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume takes place in New York City in modern times.
- A big brother, Peter, is bothered by his little brother, Fudge. Some people who don’t know Fudge think Fudge is cute.
- But even Fudge’s mother and father get mad at him.
- In the book, Fudge does some really dangerous things like fall off a rock, lose his shoe on a subway, and eat a turtle.
Now, suppose an eighth grader needs to write about a theme in To Kill a Mockingbird. How might that introduction begin?
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes place in Alabama during the 1930s.
- Two children, Scout and her big brother, Jem, are fascinated by a neighbor, Beau, whom they have never seen. They think he must be a monster because he never goes outside.
- But a few times Beau does come out without Scout and Jem knowing it.
- Beau comes outside to show friendship when he places trinkets in a hole in a tree, when he puts a blanket on Scout, and when he saves Jem’s life.
How about one more. A high school student needs to write about sonnets in Romeo and Juliet. How would that introduction go?
- Romeo and Juliet is a five-act play by William Shakespeare which occurs in Verona, Italy, around the year 1600 or a little earlier.
- In the play, two star-crossed lovers meet, fall in love at first sight, and marry. They are forced to separate, and their efforts to reunite fail.
- Shakespeare tells this love story using puns, words with double meanings, and figures of speech.
- But some of the play’s most clever lines are in sonnet form, and an example of this is the prologue of the play.
Each of these examples is five lines long, the length many teachers require. Each names the title and author and summarizes the plot. The fourth line connects the summary to the main idea which is the last sentence of the introduction. Yet each essay is different because the summaries, transition sentence and thesis are different.
This template follows a pattern that students can use over and over to begin an essay about a novel, film or play. This template works in most situations where a novel, play, or fictional film is the starting point of an essay.
For more ideas on how to write, read my book How to Write a 5th Grade (or any other grade) Essay. Or contact me for tutoring lessons. I am now scheduling summer and fall classes.