This handout is useful as a mini-lesson to help students learn how to introduce a topic and how to write a concluding statement that supports the information presented in the writing. I recommend going over it with your class before they write their first essay and look at numerous examples from newspaper articles, novels, short stories, and essays.

One fun activity to go along with this lesson is to assign different types of openings and closings and have students search for examples in books, newspaper, or magazines. Be sure to have them bring in copies of the opening paragraph and the concluding one for essays they find so that they can see how the two are tied together.

The first thing you have to do as a writer is grab your reader’s attention, and I don’t mean by saying “Hey, you!” or “Psst” or yelling “Fire.” You can, however, do any of the following:

Tell them a story.

Everybody loves a good tale. It was a dark and stormy night. Once upon a time…. You won’t believe what happened. Of course you would never actually begin your essay like this, but you get the general idea.

Surprise them.

Who doesn’t like to be startled with unexpected facts?

  • A deer is more likely to kill you than a
  • Too little sleep can shrink your
  • A cockroach can live several weeks with its head cut

Quote someone famous or not so famous.

We tend to pay attention to what famous people say. As for not so famous ones, quoting them is a bit like eavesdropping, and you know how much we all like to do that.

  • “To be or not to be, that is the question.” (Shakespeare)
  • “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” (My mother)

Ask a question.

That always gets someone’s attention. Well, almost always. Maybe not when they’re texting, tweeting, or watching an exciting football game on TV.

  • Is bigger always better? Is more better than less? Is new necessarily better than old?
  • Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking?
  • Why did John Wilkes Booth shoot Lincoln?

Relate your topic to recent news.

  • Yesterday, yet another teenager died after falling off a cliff at Stone Mountain State
  • Exit polls show that in the presidential election last week, 1% more people under age 25 voted than in
  • Investigation of the four-alarm fire at the lakeside apartments reveals that the fire started when a deep fat turkey fryer exploded on a wooden

Justify your qualifications.

Let’s face it. People listen if they think you know what you’re talking about. So tell them.

  • I have been a Master Gardener for fifteen years, and I’d like to share my knowledge of how to grow healthy, delicious tomatoes without using pesticides.
  • As the mother of triplets, I feel uniquely qualified to give advice on how to cope with the terrible

Give background information leading to a stated thesis.

This approach works when you know your audience is interested in your topic or on exams when you don’t have much time.

Every year, millions of parents in America face the dilemma of whether or not to put their child in day care. With so many two-income families, this decision is becoming more and more commonplace. Many parents fear day care will have an adverse effect on their child. Those parents can relax.

Research shows that children benefit emotionally, socially, and cognitively from a good daycare experience.

There you have it – 7 tried and true ways to hook your reader.


No matter how engaging your anecdote, how amazing your startling fact, how memorable your quotation, or how important your question is doesn’t matter unless you relate your opening directly to your topic. After you grab your readers’ attention, tell them your purpose and main idea. You do that with a thesis statement.