Teaching Introductions and Conclusions

I hate teaching introductions and conclusions! There, I said it. It’s so hard to define clearly what makes a good introduction!

  • A good introduction should make the topic interesting–but what’s interesting to you isn’t always interesting to me.
  • A good introduction should have enough background information to open the topic but not too much–and how much exactly is that?
  • We need a clear, strong thesis statement-but how manyexcellent pieces of writing do you read where the thesis statement is implied, or broken into two sentences, and those sentences are located far away from each other?
  • The introduction is the first paragraph–unless it’s the second because the first paragraph is an extended hook.

And conclusions?

  • A conclusion should sum up
  • Or make a recomendation
  • Or conclude the topic somehow
  • But it shouldn’t have new information.

And when we teach students to write by rote, let’s face it, the results are pretty boring. And while beginners may not have great English skills, your students may be sophisticated writers with excellent writing skills in their own language. We don’t want to stunt them with a school child level formula.

So how can we get students to write good introductions and good conclusions? By exposing them to as many examples as we can. To make that process easier. I developed these two worksheets–one is for beginners and the other is for more advanced students that provide fairly formulaic intros and conclusions with pretty basic problems. They serve as jumping off points to get students reading analytically to inform their own writing:

The Worksheets

Good and Bad Introductions for higher levels (with Good and Bad Introductions Suggested Answers)

Good intros and conclusions for lower levels (with Good intros and conclusions Suggested Answers)

I like to use them like this:

  1. Review what makes a good intro and/or conclusion as a class which shouldn’t take long.
  2. Break students into groups and give them each a worksheet. Let them discuss and evaluate for about 15-20 minutes. Remind them that there are good and bad points about every example.
  3. Break students into different groups and have them share ideas with new students for about 7 minutes.
  4. Come back together and go over the good, the bad, and the ugly about each one.
  5. For homework, send students to a news  opinions page (The New York Times is great or BBC Words in the News has articles written for ESL websites. Local papers are also a good resource). Have them pick an introduction and a conclusion and analyze what is good and bad about it.
  6. The next day, students present their introductions and conclusions  in groups.

Basically, I want to give students analytical skills that lets them write excellent introductions and conclusions.

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One Reply to “Teaching Introductions and Conclusions”

  1. Thanks for this explanation of intros and concls. Its ideal in that its not just another set of exercises but will enable the students to evaluate the good and bad examples with followup.

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