Learning Target I can use five different types of leads to gain my reader’s attention. This means I can write a summary, strong question, snapshot, important observation, or fun fact lead in the introduction of my essay.
What is a lead? • The lead (beginning or introduction) establishes the direction your writing will take. A good lead grabs your reader's attention and refuses to let go. In other words, it hooks the reader.
Newspaper Lead The Philadelphia Phillies ended their long wait for a World Series title with a short burst of baseball last night as they clinched the crown by completing a rain-suspended 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. http://cubreporters.org/leads.html (2008)
Effective Introductions for Argument Essays: • Intelligently engage the reader (THE LEAD) • Introduce the subject of the essay
"I look at leads as my one frail opportunity to grab the reader. If I don't grab them at the start, I can't count on grabbing them in the middle, because they'll never get to the middle. Maybe 30 years ago, I would give it a slow boil. Now, it's got to be microwaved.” - Journalist Mitch Albom "By common consent, the beginning is more than half the whole task and throws a flood of light on many aspects of the inquiry." - Aristotle
Common mistakes: • The Hidden Lead: Does the lead zero in on the topic of the essay prompt, or is the real heart of the argument hidden elsewhere in the essay? • The Overly Dense Lead: Does your lead have too many proper nouns or too much data? • The Dull Lead: Given your lead, would you really read this essay if you hadn't written it? * Not every type of lead will work for every writer or for every piece of writing.
Types of Leads • Strong Question • Snapshot • Important Observation • Fun Fact or Unusual Detail • Summary
Strong Question Start with a strongly stated question your readers might have. In some ways all writing is about trying to answer our best questions. • A strong question is one we all want to know the answer to. • Ask a question and deliver the answer in your essay, or ask a rhetorical question that provokes curiosity. • Avoid using questions with a yes or no answer. • The key is to ask an interesting question that relates to the main idea and sparks the reader’s curiosity.
Strong Question Examples • Weak: Have you made your will yet? • Better: What has wheels, is green, and everyone is jumping on it? The environmental bandwagon is rolling through marketing departments of large corporations all over the western world as companies seek to appeal to ethically motivated consumers.
Snapshot Start with a description. When you paint a picture, you draw the reader in and give them a sneak peek into what you are going to be writing about in your essay.
Snapshot Examples • Weak: Because she serves the poor of India, Mother Theresa is a saint. • Good: The image of Mother Theresa’s gnarled hands serving bread to the poor in India creates an accurate picture of sainthood. • Better: Mourners lined up for miles yesterday in the pouring rain to take one last look and lay flowers near the coffin of Mother Teresa, who lived among Calcutta's sick and needy for thirty-five years.
Important Observation Don’t start in the general. Put your most surprising or important observation into your opening paragraph.
Important Observation Examples • Weak: Research has shown that cigarette smoking makes people look older, not in a good way but by causing wrinkled skin and yellow teeth. • Better: Most teen smokers who don’t think they will continue to light up in the future are wrong. Five years later, 72% find themselves addicted to the habit. • Better: Fifty percent of working mothers fail to prepare healthy family meals because they “just don’t have the time,” according to a survey conducted by A Meal Preparation Company.
Fun Fact or Unusual Detail Start with the facts that made you smile, laugh, or say “ah hah,” or start with something unexpected.
Fun Fact or Unusual Detail Examples • Weak: Everyone has unique fingerprints. • Better: Two muskrats have taken over Holiday Pool, evading would-be capturers and forcing residents to look for other ways to survive the latest heat-wave. • Better: Inhaled cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than any other drug, even those administered intravenously.
Summary This lead consists of a to the point, detailed summary of the piece of literature being discussed or the prompt being discussed. A summary lead may be combined with another type of lead to be more engaging to the reader.
Summary Examples • Weak: This article proves that the sacrifices of Mother Theresa more than qualify her for the title of saint. • Better: Twenty-eight passengers and a crew of four were killed last night when a single-engine plane crashed four miles south of Bloomington.
What have you learned so far? • The following slides contain each of the five different types of leads. • Read each slide and determine the lead type.
Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier “None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Forest. Forest is not a thicket of trees. Forest is a boy. A sick boy, a boy sneezing and coughing all over my desk and pencils. I caught Forest’s cold and had to stay home from school on Tuesday. Tuesday is vocabulary day at Webster School. Follow my advice: Never get sick on Vocabulary Day.”
“The Nature of Liberty” by H.L. Mencken “Every time an officer of the constabulary, in the execution of his just and awful powers under American law, produces a compound fracture of the occupant of some citizen in his custody, with hemorrhage, shock, coma and death, there comes a feeble, falsetto protest from specialists in human liberty. Is it a fact without significance that this protest is never supported by the great body of American freemen, setting aside the actual heirs and creditors of the victim?”
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”
Meanwhile Back at the Ranch by Trinka Hakes Noble “Rancher Hicks lived out west. As far as the eye could see there was nothing…not even a roaming buffalo. So nothing much happened.”
Inside the Brain: Revolutionary Discoveries of How the Mind Works by Ronald Kotulak “Seeing stars, it dreams of eternity. Hearing birds, it makes music. Smelling flowers, it is enraptured. Touching tools, it transforms the earth. But deprived of these sensory experiences, the human brain withers and dies.”
In his book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Neal Gabler wrote the following: One does not necessarily have to cluck in disapproval to admit that entertainment is all the things its detractors say it is: fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive. In fact, one might argue that those are the very reasons so many people love it. At the same time, it is not hard to see why cultural aristocrats in the nineteenth century and intellectuals in the twentieth hated entertainment and why they predicted, as one typical nineteenth century critic railed, that its eventual effect would be “to overturn all morality, to poison the springs of domestic happiness, to dissolve the ties of our social order, and to involve our country in ruin.” Write a thoughtful and carefully constructed essay in which you use specific evidence to defend, challenge, or qualify the assertion that entertainment has the capacity to “ruin” society.
Unusual Detail In the smoldering heat of the summer, a body can take weeks to decay into a state of bone. While over the course of two hours, you can eliminate one of the most vital parts of the body by simply allowing yourself to be sucked into the black hole of entertainment the world has created for you.
Activity • Sign in to Google Groups. • Meet with your assigned group. • Brainstorm your ideas together and write two different leads (strong question, snapshot, important observation, fun fact, and summary) as a group for the argument essay prompt about the book, Life the Movie. • Post your two leads on the Google Group site. • DO NOT label which type of lead you are writing. • We will be critiquing the leads as a class, so make you leads as engaging and interesting as possible.
Assessment Write an original lead. *The prompt is located at the bottom of your notes sheet.