Too often when writing the draft of an essay, writers include unnecessary information. It's time we put an end to that.
I think Frank McCourt's a whiner.
Did that lead get your attention? If I were an accomplished writer like Frank McCourt, I would go into the body of my article right now, but I'm not, so I'll, instead, weaken the lead with unnecessary verbiage, something McCourt's and my students have mastered.
In his book Teacher Man, he pokes fun at the notion that English teachers read literary classics. They, in fact, read Jose's and Susan's and Mary's and Antonio's horrible essays.
I got tired of reading crappy essays, so I made a rule in my class: if the lead didn't grab my attention, I wrote a 'D' on the paper and stopped reading. After assigning 38 'D's I figured I should actually teach students how to hook the reader with dynamite leads. Teaching students how to write leads will make your life more enjoyable. Here's the very lesson I taught, beginning with my lone objective.
- Students will recognize quality leads, write quality leads, and revise really crappy leads.
Teaching students how to write leads involves the following procedures:
- Explain that a good lead hooks the reader and heightens the reader's curiosity by arousing interest. The best leads drop the reader into the middle of the action.
Provide examples of great leads from great writers. Use different genres: novels, newspaper articles, essays, short stories, this really funny article I wrote about golf, or writing samples from the class. Never under any circumstances use Thomas Hardy as an example.
- List various methods:
- Describe a Character
- Avoid using rhetorical questions, trite phrases, or slang.
4. Analyze aforementioned writing samples and discuss effective techniques used.
Application and Assessment
- Instruct students to pick a topic and use at least five different types of leads as a hook.
- If you are revising a rough draft, evaluate the lead and rewrite it.
- In groups of 3-4, have students share each of their leads and let the group determine which is best.
- Have students read their lead to the class. Have the class respond to its effectiveness in hooking the reader.
- Write the leads on a board and have students evaluate them.
- For a grade, collect the leads created by the student and assess them based in completion, technique, and interest.
Make the assessment part of a challenge or contest.