Activity of the Week: “Is Your Opening Line ‘In a world...'”?

Activity of the Week: “Is Your Opening Line ‘In a world...'”?

[Activity by Kiersten Jakobsen; originally published winter 2015]

Activity name: 

Is your opening line “In a world...”?



Activity brief description: 

Quick discussion and revision activity on opening lines.


This activity will likely work best at the end of the quarter when students have a draft of the RBA.

Activity length: 

50 minutes

Activity goals: 

To help students narrow the scope of their opening line and, in turn, revise a single (and very important) sentence. Easy, right?


One hat.

 Activity details: 

Jump right in. Ask your students, “Is your opening line ‘In a world...’?” Consider following your question with amusing trailer below:

Consider talking about a trend you have (likely) seen in recently-submitted RBA drafts. I like to call this trend “in a world.” Students tend to write opening lines which say things such as “Since the dawn of human existence,” or “Since the beginning of the cinematic age.” Yes, students are thinking and writing big here, but only because they feel as though they’ve been around the world and back with their research. Address this, sympathize with it (we’ve all done this), then remind them that opening lines are key. Ask them how many times, while researching, they read the opening line of an essay and thought, “This doesn’t sound terribly exciting” or “My keyword search was ‘zebras.’ Why is this paper talking about the invention of the steam engine?”


(10 minutes)

Group discussion on what makes a great opening line.

Think about your favorite books/essays/etc. How do these works begin? Write 3-5 ideas for great opening lines on whiteboard.


(5 minutes)

Report ideas to class. What types of lines work and why?


(1 minute)

Part 1

Write the opening line of your draft on a small sheet of paper.

Toss it in the hat.

Part 2

Choose an opening line from the hat.

Guess the topic the opening line addresses.

Write the topic on the paper.


(15 minutes)

Part 1

Half the class finds the author of the opening line.

Work together to revise statement. What hooks might be great openings to this essay?

A staggering statistic, for example?

Part 2

Implement revisions into your draft.

Share your intro with your partner. Did the change in your opening line encourage you to revise your introduction?

When complete, second half of class finds author of opening line. Repeat above.


(5 minutes)

Volunteers report “before” and “after” opening line to class.