Though students typically begin to write essays in elementary school, middle school becomes the time for refining the practice. A strong paper begins with a well-crafted introductory paragraph. Though the introduction comes first in the essay, encourage your middle school student to save its construction for last to ensure the central idea of the essay remains the same, and the overall paragraph intrigues the reader.

Purpose

The purpose of the introductory paragraph is to guide the reader into the essay. This first paragraph gets the reader's attention and sets the tone for the entire piece. The type of paper guides the style of the introduction. If the middle school student is writing a creative or expository essay, the introductory paragraph might feature a dramatic tone or use figurative language. For more formal essays such as a research paper, the first paragraph simply gives an overview of what the paper is about.

First Sentence

The first sentence in an essay carries a powerful position. Because the reader encounters it at the start, the first sentence colors her opinion of the whole essay. As such, middle school students should start with a hook that grabs the reader's attention. Young teens might like to start with a question, but they have other options as well. For an English paper, a quote from a professional writer sets a literary tone. A startling fact or statistic works well for science or social studies essays. For a persuasive essay, an anecdote provides a way of easing the reader into the argument. Guide your teen by brainstorming appropriate hooks with them.

Central Idea

Integral to the introductory paragraph is the central idea. In an expository essay, students write a statement of purpose about what topic they are discussing. This sentence can begin as simply as, "This paper examines…" For any type of paper in which the student takes a position, including literary analysis and persuasive essays, he uses a thesis statement, a single, arguable sentence. A thesis statement explains briefly what the teen believes and why. Help your middle schooler by questioning, "What do you think about that topic? Why?" Keep narrowing the focus until he arrives at a single statement.

Additional Information

The scope of the paper dictates additional information included in the introduction. The introductory paragraph explains who or what the paper is about. Similarly, he might need to include an exact location, especially if geography has relevance to the topic. Time period is a consideration for history papers, as well as essays about literary movements. For a cause-and-effect essay, middle schoolers might include a brief outline of how the event came to be. Regardless of the type of essay, the writer identifies the reason for the topic's significance. Help your teen explain why the world should care about this topic.