Thursday, June 28, 2012

The One With First Paragraphs

One of the things I picked up from my AP training last week is first paragraphs.  I love the idea.  It's one of those things that is so simple it has you asking yourself why you didn't think of the idea. There are several things you can do with first paragraphs.

The general idea is that you choose a novel and read the first paragraph to your students without them knowing what the book is.  For example:

You ever see ink mixed up with blood?  That's what's getting set down on this paper.  It's my blood, too.  No one else's.  Came spouting out of my ear when Mingo pretty near sliced it off with his fish knife.  I didn't cry then, and I didn't cry when I stitched it up myself tonight with the gut from the wildcat Mingo done shot.  He'll probably try to cut my other ear off when he finds out I took that cat's gut. But he won't have a chance.  I'll be gone.  I decided tonight.  I'm leaving.

Wow!  Don't you want to read that book now?  That's the the first purpose of doing first paragraphs with your students.  They are a hook.  Our presenter said she loves to watch which student will be the first to sneak the book off her bookshelf after doing this.  She has students fighting over who will read the book first.  I LOVE that!!  I plan to type these up in a powerpoint presentation so that students can follow along.

These can also be used to teach students how to annotate.  Have them write down their thoughts and questions about the paragraph.  Discuss them.  Ask students what they think happened or will happen.  She encourages her students to have conversations with the characters.  For example, a student might write as part of their annotations, "Are you and Mingo friends or enemies?"
Of course you could give students a copy as well for them to write on and highlight.

I can see these being used for mini grammar lessons as well.  Circle all the adjectives.  Underline the verbs.  That sort of thing.

After you are finished discussing or doing whatever you choose to do with the first paragraph you then reveal the book to the students.

I love it!  I'll admit I'm guilty of judging books by their cover.  I would never pick this up to read on my own, but having read the first paragraph makes me want to read it.


  1. Great activity!
    I'm excited to give this a try...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Awesome idea! I will be teaching English this fall and we just learned a strategy similar to this. Thanks for sharing. And did I mention that I love your blog design? SO cute! You are very classy, indeed. I'm your newest follower! Hope to see you at my student teaching blog sometime:)


  3. Kelly Gallagher suggests using first lines but in some cases a paragraph is much better!! I have successfully used first lines as bell ringer activities by having students write the second and third sentences that would logically follow. it's great fun and a great writing as well as inference activity.

  4. This is a great idea! We did something similar, but we used first lines/paragraphs to decipher POV.