I love teaching Opening and Closing Paragraphs! By this time, my students have their amazing essays or reports written—and they are ready to show them off by writing poignant openings that draw readers in and closings that leave the reader satisfied.
Many of my students are very serious and conscientious about their Opening and Closing Paragraphs (as seen in the video below!), and they make me super proud of their efforts!
There are many ways to open and/or close an essay or report. Here are some general tips about opening paragraphs and closing paragraphs that writers of longer essays and reports (four paragraphs or more) should consider:
1) While you want to have your Thesis Statement (statement declaring what your entire paper is about) written ahead of time (at least a “Working Thesis Statement”), it is usually better to write your Opening and Closing Paragraphs after you have written the body of your paper. By this time, you know exactly what your paper contains, and you can draw your reader into your paper more.
2) An Opening and/or Closing Paragraph should be three sentences or more in length. If either of these is shorter than that, the sentence(s) should just be tacked on to the beginning of your first paragraph or the end of your last paragraph—rather than writing a short two sentence paragraph in either spot.
3) There are many ways to open and close an essay or report. Be creative and think outside the box! What would draw you into your paper?
4) Be wary of just saying, “This paper is about…” Be more creative than that!
5) Write your Opening and Closing Paragraphs in the same person as the body of your paper unless your Opening Paragraph is personal (it involves you)—then you can write in the first person (I, me, my) then change to the formal third for the body. If your Closing Paragraph is a challenge, then you can write it in the second person (you) even if your body is in formal third person.
6) Be sure your Thesis Statement is somewhere in the Opening Paragraph (or the first sentence of the first paragraph of the body).
7) Consider these types of Opening Paragraphs (these are specifically for a biographical paper, but they can apply to many types!):
a. Direct questions–One of the best ways to create interest is to ask questions. The simplest way to do this is to ask the questions directly.
b. Cause reader to ask questions–In addition to asking questions directly, there are other ways to “ask questions.” If, for example, you start with a person’s humble birth, the readers will ask themselves “How did this person make an impact on the world?” Notice they will ask themselves this question—you don’t have to do it.
c. Story or anecdote–If you start with a clever story or anecdote, the reader will want to learn more about this per- son.
d. List of accomplishments–If you start with a list of accomplisments, the reader will wonder how the person accom- plished those things.
e. “Bookend” your paper with an Opening Paragraph and a Closing Paragraph that are linked to each other.
Here are some ideas you might want to use for “bookending” a paper about an influential person:
i. Start with birth and end with impact of the person
ii. Start with impact the person had and end with birth
iii. Start with birth and end with death
iv. Begin and end with a story about the person (i.e. a continuing story)
v. Open with a list of accomplishments and close with the impact of those accomplishments
vi. Open with obstacles person faced and end with accomplishments
8) Be sure your Closing Paragraph includes a Thesis Statement “Reloaded.” Consider these tips:
a. Remember, a Thesis Statement “Reloaded” is a statement that “closes” your paper–sums up what your entire paper is about.
b. It should be a sentence or two in length and should close your essay.
c. It may be at the very beginning of your Closing Paragraph or at the end of your Closing Paragraph.
d. It should bridge the gap between your catchy Closing Paragraph and the body of your essay.
e. It should leave your reader with a feeling of satisfaction after reading your paper.
f. It may repeat something catchy from your opening or may repeat the title of your essay, if desired.
g. Be sure your Thesis Statement “Reloaded” is not identical to your Thesis Statement—it should be “reloaded” with the key words still in it.
9) Be sure your Opening Paragraph and your Closing Paragraph fit the tone and emphasis of your paper. (Watch the video below for more on this!)
10) Consider starting something in your Opening Paragraph and continuing it in your Closing Paragraph—like a story, quote, etc., if it fits your paper. (This is called bookending and can be an effective way to open and close.)
Now that you studied those tips, watch the video below in which I teach a group of 8th through 10th graders how to write their Opening and Closing Paragraphs for their research reports on countries.
Note: All Meaningful Composition books at our store have two weeks of free sample lessons (per books—22 books!). Many of these contain lessons like the ones in the video below!