Teaching Argumentative Essay Introduction Paragraphs


Teach the Argumentative Essay Introduction Paragraph to your middle school students with ease!

While the first step of reading the prompt is the same for argumentative essays as it is for informative essays, there is one seemingly obvious difference - students must choose a side.  But my 8th graders always want to see both sides and give me "the look" when I tell them they must pick ONE side, and that this side, or claim,  must be found in their thesis.

So when I teach my students to flip the prompt into the thesis, I model the concept of choosing a side.  Then I explain that they must be sure to highlight or underline evidence for that side as they are reading and marking the text.  I also tell them we have to keep a look out for the opposing claim and mark that differently.  (Generally, in my class, we choose to circle opposing claims and write opposing in the margin.)

After reading and marking the text, then we're ready to write our introduction.  While the same basic structure is the same as the informative - at least 3 sentences with a hook, arch/bridge, and thesis - the critical differences are in what the bridge and thesis contain:  the position.  


This is the first sentence and contains background information about the topic from the texts.  A nice way to start this sentence is "Throughout history" or "In recent years". Of course the minimum number of sentences for a hook is one, and I always tell students that more than one is sometimes necessary and preferable to really set the stage for the reader.


This is the second sentence and should state both sides of the argument.  A good way to write this is Some scholars argue____ while others assert_______.


The last and arguably most important sentence is the answer to the prompt with the reasons.

So, for example, if the prompt reads "Write an essay in which you take a position on whether the lost city of Atlantis was a real place", then the thesis might say "Atlantis was a real place because it is based on myths and there is no scientific evidence to prove its existence."

I teach my students to take the same words from the prompt and include them in the thesis to help them make sure that they are writing an essay that actually answers the prompt.  

Did you see the pattern?

H - Hook
A - Arch/Bridge
T - Thesis

It spells HAT and I tell my students "Just like you put a hat on the top of your head, you put a hat on the top of your essay!"  It's corny, yes - but corny enough that they remember it!  

I use the same mnemonic for informative essay introduction paragraphs.  This way the introduction is always a "hat" with the big difference being in the arch and the fact that the writer must take a position.

How do I teach this?

First, I give my students notes with examples for all 3 sentences so they have something to refer to as we practice this part of the essay and also for much later when they write a full essay.

Then we practice writing argumentative introduction paragraphs based on small texts.  I give the students one small text a day for 3 days. The students write an introduction on their own, then we go over it and discuss it. 

On the 5th day, we have an assessment.  

Most students seem to feel fairly confident about this paragraph in an argumentative essay when we finish this week of activities.  Not only have they had the definitions explained with an example, but they have done the work and climbed the hill.  And now I can know if they have grasped the concept and are ready to move on the next paragraph - the body!  But that's a post for another time.  :)

Want to try this lesson, practice and assessment with your own students?  It's available here in printable and digital form:

Teaching middle school students how to write an argumentative essay introduction paragraph has never been easier! Use this printable and digital lesson with notes, 3 days of practice and an assessment to get the job done!

I hope these ideas help your students get a great start on their argumentative essay introduction paragraphs!

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Teaching Middle School Students how to write an Argumentative Essay Paragraph is easy to do with these tips!


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