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Teaching IELTS essay introductions – a resource

This is a resource and an idea for teaching IELTS essay introductions. The idea is quite simple: give your students some linked essay questions and introductions and ask them to identify which is which.  It is almost a paragraph/heading marching activity.

This is a form of exercise I like because I think it can really help to focus on one writing skill (here the intro) rather than always look at the whole essay. I also find students often enjoy focussing on precise skills like writing introductions. Some of my best essay writing classes have involved little more than getting students to write 6/7 introductions one after the other. Not especially creative, but effective and surprisingly enjoyable.

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Teaching essay introductions (1781)

Notes: what makes a good introduction?

There is no one answer here. Different approaches can and do work and the intros I have written for this exercise do vary slightly. In general, the idea is:

  • keep them fairly short and to the point – main ideas, more than reasons and examples
  • identify what the task is – if you don’t put it in the intro, you are unlikely to answer it in the main body
  • state a point of view – to get a good score for Task Response you need a clear position throughout the essay and that means it must be evident in the introduction

Notes: identifying the task and the topic

Part of the way this exercise works is to get students to see that each question has a “task” and is not just about a general topic. I encourage my own students to tell me two things about any question before they start:

  • what is it about? –  have they understood what the topic is generally?
  • what is the task? – have they understood what the question is asking them to do? This means they have to tell me “I should discuss x,y and z” or “I should decide whether x is better than y” or “I should discuss what problems x can cause”. I get them to do this in their own words without looking at the question. It’s one way to help them paraphrase the question itself – if they are not looking at the question, they cam’t copy it exactly!

You will find in my answer key that I have added simple topic and task answers.

Notes: establishing a point of view

Another way this exercise can work is to get the students to see that the introduction should/must contain a clear statement of view. What this is will depend on what is in their heads and the precise nature of the question. Increasingly, though, I am unafraid to be really quite direct in putting my personal opinion in. I see no problem with “My view is….”; I only discourage “I think” because there are so many different ways to say “I think” in English and you want to start off by showing some variety in language.

Possible extension activities

There are a number of ways to vary/extend this activity. One obvious possibility is simply to get the students to write the other introductions. Another possibility that can help raise awareness of introduction writing skills is to give the students the introductions and ask them to write the questions.

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