Teaching Informative Essay Introduction Paragraphs


Find out how I use a hat to teach my middle school students how to write an informative essay introduction paragraph!

After I teach my students how to read and flip an essay prompt and how to read and mark an essay text, I pause before planning and teach them the paragraph structure of each kind of paragraph in the essay.  First up, the introduction!

When teaching the introduction, I tell my students there introductions have at least 3 sentences.  I make a big deal about this saying that this is the smallest number of sentences and that as they (the student) mature, their writing will mature and their introductions will get longer and more developed.  

So what are those 3 sentences?  They are the hook, the arch, and the thesis.  We first focus on the informative essay type.


This is where I have the most work in breaking bad habits.  Students like to use rhetorical questions and/or onomatopoeia as hooks.  So it is a bit of a transition for them to learn that a hook will now be background information about the articles they read for the summary.

To teach them how to write background information, I ask them to use this sentence starter:
[article name] by [author] and [article name] by [author] are about _______.

Then we practice our summary skills!


The arch, or bridge, is the sentence that connects the hook to the thesis.  The only way to do this effectively is to know what you thesis will be.  That's why I teach my students to create a thesis skeleton when they flip the prompt and then fill in the skeleton after they read the texts.  In this way, they already have their thesis written and can write an arch more easily.  

I tell my students that the arch can be a "fun fact" about the topic that relates to the thesis.  For example, in my digital informative essay unit, students will create a thesis that tells that Mount Rushmore and Pipestone National Monument are such significant places that they should be protected because of their natural, historical and cultural importance.

The arch is a fact that connects the topic of nationally protected places --> 
to the idea that these are important places to all Americans --> 
which connects to the ideas of natural, historical and cultural importance.  

I think of it as a chain and explain that the student's job to to connect all the links in the chain together.  


This is the last sentence in the introduction and should already be ready to go from the time when the student finished reading and marking the text.  

I teach my students to use the same words from the prompt in their thesis and then add in the reasons.  I also teach them that the thesis is a road map for their reader.  The thesis tells the reader what your overall point is and what each body paragraph will be about.

Did you see the pattern?

H - Hook
A - Arch
T - Thesis

Put those 3 together and they spell HAT.  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.  I tell them I know it's corny but it's just corny enough for them to remember it!  We all have a laugh, I tell them I'm a nerd and then start wearing a hat in class.  And you know what?  They remember it!

How do I teach it?

I start by providing my students with notes for each of these sentences so they have something to refer back to when we are practicing in class.  

Then we have 3 days of practice.  They read a small text that includes a prompt and then they write an introduction to match.  We go over one each day and discuss it.  Then on the 5th day, we have a quiz.  

Want to try this lesson, practice and assessment with your own students?  It's ready to go in print and digital form:

Make the tricky concept of writing informative introduction paragraphs easier for your middle school students with these notes, 3 practice activities and an assessment!  It's the perfect recipe for success!

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Using this mnemonic may make your middle school students roll their eyes at the corniness of it, but it's just so corny that they will remember it!


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