I'm not sure anyone would be interested in reading this little rambling, but I want to record this for posterity's sake.
In my English Comp class yesterday I tried a new idea. I had originally asked students to bring in an example of a "bodacious beginning" - that is, an introductory paragraph that grabs the reader's attention and inspires them to want to read more. I think this is imperative for any writer (as I tell my students - you WANT me to want to read your essay; not rely on the fact that I HAVE to read your essay).
This exercise is useful because it teaches students the variety of ways to grab a reader's attention: begin with a question - or a statement that causes the reader to form his own questions - or a very short, direct sentence that leaves the reader hanging - or beginning with the climax of the story that draws the reader into the action. There are a variety of ways to "hook" the reader - and the students seemed to learn more about writing by reading good examples.
But the twist to this assignment was that I asked students to bring in an example of an introduction that they did not find particularly inviting. Now they thought they were going to compare and contrast the two, but instead, I asked the students to rewrite the rather dull introduction by making it more inviting. You should have heard the moans and groans. "This is hard!" they exclaimed.
But you know what?! They DID it!! They utilized what we discovered in the previous discussion and they actually improved the introductions. They discovered that asking a question is a great way to hook the reader. They managed to entice us to want to read an Algebra II text. They learned that restructuring paragraphs or sentences can have a profound effect on the reader.
Sometimes my classroom experiments fall flat. But yesterday - it was engaging for both the students and the teacher. And this, I feel, is worth recording for posterity's sake.