i-357: A TOOLKIT TO ENHANCE INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPHS IN SPM CONTINUOUS ESSAYS
People have different views regarding first impression.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”
“First impressions are always unreliable”
“First impression matters”
“First impressions last”
In essay writing, is it important for writers to make a good first impression? Definitely, yes. The first few words in the introductory paragraph are crucial. Personally, I am positive “First impression matters”. How can ESL teachers coach their learners to write a good introduction? What are the ways to begin writing their FIRST FEW SENTENCES in the first paragraph?
This write-up offers 11 techniques to write an introduction for essays. The techniques shared here may not be alien to some teachers but the sample introductory paragraphs and the implementation proposal are fresh. It is not necessary for learners to master all the eleven techniques. Depending on the time they have and their commitment level, learners are given choices; they can choose any 3, 5 or 7 techniques favoured by them.
Obviously, "i" refers to INTRODUCTION. Then, these numbers; 3,5,7 refer to the number of techniques to be mastered in each phase. I would suggest the implementation of i-357 takes place in three phases of mastery. In Phase 1, ESL teachers may ask learners to master any of the three favoured techniques. Then, in Phase 2, learners must master any of the 5 techniques they prefer. Gradually, at the end of Phase 3, learners should have mastered any of the 7 self-chosen techniques. There are always advantages when learners have mastered various ways to begin writing their essay. The following are the TECHNIQUES TO WRITE THE FIRST FEW SENTENCES IN THE INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH.
TECHNIQUE 1: DESCRIBING SETTING/NATURE
If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice.
Powerful waves crashed along the shore of Teluk Chempedak as the sunset revealed its mesmerizing beauty. I was in Teluk Chempedak last holiday and I fell in love with the place. …….
Write a story about being alone.
The cool turquoise water glistened in the sun. I could feel the freshness of the breeze from the South China Sea. It was my second day being alone on this tropical paradise. …..
TECHNIQUE 2: FLASHBACK
Some people complain that they have no free time. Discuss the reasons why they might say this and suggest how they could use their time better.
When I was sixteen years old, I had no life. As a teenager, I felt like I was a machine or robot who was programmed by my mother to study, study and study. I had no free time at all. ….
‘Honesty is always the best policy.’ Describe an experience when this was true for you.
Last December, I had a chance to visit Korea with my family. It is not only one of the best family holidays but it is also a holiday that has taught me a great lesson about honesty. Our holiday began …
TECHNIQUE 3: FEELINGS
Young people should be trusted to make their own decisions. How far do you agree with this opinion? Explain why.
It is heart-breaking when one has to listen to every single thing dictated by one’s parents. It is also disappointing when one is not given any chance to be responsible for the decision he or she makes in life. …….
Social networking has caused a lot of problems. How far do you agree?
I am always irritated when some people simply blame social networking for the problems that have been happening in the society. Are they kidding? …..
TECHNIQUE 4: A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Imagine you went to a big sports event. Describe what you saw, what happened and how you felt on that day.
As a former school sprinter, I always missed attending sports events particularly the ones that involved track and field events. I was all agog when recently I had a chance to support Malaysian athletes at the Asian Games. ….
Why is having good neighbours important?
Personally, I will never forget Uncle Siva, my former neighbour in Taman Tunku Intan, Balik Pulau, Penang. Uncle Siva is more than a neighbour to me. ….
TECHNIQUE 5: ACTIONS / VERBS
Describe a problem you once had while you were travelling. Explain what you did to solve the problem and what you have learnt from the experience.
I quickly jumped out of my bed, ran down the stairs and grabbed my car key. I was already late to fetch my friends for our trip to Hatyai, Thailand. ….
Describe an important family celebration and how you felt about it.
My mother had not stopped yelling at my brother who had been procrastinating his task to decorate our living room. My sister and I were busy in the kitchen attempting to bake our first cheese cake. Everybody had a chore ….
TECHNIQUE 6: REPETITION
Describe the first time you went on a camping trip. You should write about the activities at the camp and explain how you felt about the experience.
Unbelievable! Unbelievable! Really Unbelievable! I could hardly believe what I heard when Fiona, the most popular girl in school, invited me to join her in a camping trip. I was bursting with joy as it was also my first experience going on a camping trip. ….
Describe what makes you happy and explain why.
Money, money and money. It is the one and only thing that guarantees my happiness. Some may disagree with me but who cares. …..
TECHNIQUE 7: INTERESTING FACT OR STATISTIC
The Malaysian tradition of having open houses is important and should be practised more. Do you agree? Give reasons to support your view.
In 2018, there are altogether 35000 open houses held in Malaysia. It is appalling that Malaysians spent RM20.2 million to organise open houses during festivals such as the Eid, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. ….
Why are animals important to human beings?
We cannot deny the fact that animals die mainly because of human beings. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the main threats for the survival of wildlife are deforestation and illegal hunting. ….
TECHNIQUE 8: MAKING A LIST
Write a story about a teenager who had an unusual hobby. Explain what was the hobby and how the teenager’s friends became interested in it.
Cooking, gardening, painting and reading are some of the common hobbies. Most people have at least a hobby, nevertheless, some individuals enjoy having unusual hobbies. …
Write a story about a time in someone’s life when music played an important role.
Violin, guitar, cello and saxophone were displayed on the dusty shelf. Those musical instruments greeted all guests as they entered the mansion of Ahmad Ghani, a very renowned veteran music composer. ….
TECHNIQUE 9: DESCRIBING CHARACTER/S
Write a story in which you had to keep a friend’s secret. In your story, give details of the secret and explain why it was important to keep the secret
A tall, muscular old man was looking at me. His white hair, wrinkles and grey beard stood out for sure. He walked closer and I realised he was Dr Jamal, my best friend’s father. My best friend’s reminder not to reveal anything to his father was still fresh in my mind. …
Write about your experience helping Puan Ramlah, an elderly lady who lives alone. End your story with” “...I learnt a lot about myself by helping Puan Ramlah.”
Her long floral shawl followed her as her skeletal body moved fast through the crowd at the night market. Her sincere smile and big brown eyes twinkled as she saw me. I was also elated to meet Puan Ramlah for the third time. ….
TECHNIQUE 10: ONOMATOPOEIA
There are many things to do after your SPM examination. Write about your plans for the next three months and the challenges you might face.
Gulp! Gulp! Gulp! I finish drinking the succulent watermelon juice within seconds. I stare the empty glass and start wondering what I should do when my SPM examination ends next week. ….
‘A friend in need is a friend indeed.’ Describe how a friend helped you in a difficult time.
Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Johan dashed to the door and quickly opened it. He was surprised to see me in tears. I stood still in front of Johan. I did not and could not even say a word but Johan knew I needed his help. ….
TECHNIQUE 11: QUESTIONING
Some people believe that all students in Malaysia should learn at least three language. What do you think?
How many languages can you speak? If you are able to communicate confidently in two languages, is it enough? Do you still need to learn and master another language? ….
There is a lack of freedom given to teenagers today. Do you agree?
Is it true teenagers these days lack freedom? If true, is it very serious? Some people claim teenagers deserve more freedom, however, how much freedom should be given to them? ….
Some of you may wonder on what is the best technique to apply to begin the introductory paragraph? Well, to me, there is no definite answer. The best answer I can offer is, “It depends”. It depends on the personal preference of each learner as well as the genre of the essay question. That is the main reason why the toolkit is named i-357 as it reflects a number of techniques that learners have to master and later on choose one of them to begin writing their introduction.
It could be easy to explain about all the eleven techniques as I have provided sample paragraphs. However, to gain mastery, unquestionably, learners must do sufficient practices. ESL teachers should ensure their learners get enough practices. Hopefully, after some time, better introductory paragraphs can be written.
I really hope my write-up this time gives some insights to ESL teachers on how to coach their learners begin their essay effectively. Let us coach our learners to create better first impressions!