The Most Worstest Introduction: A Group Activity for First Year Composition

Instructions: Tell students that you are going to do a fun writing activity that reviews the typical steps of an introduction and gets students to consider what separates strong from poor academic writing.

Elicit the usual steps of an intro: title / hook / intro to issue / thesis. (If you have taught different elements, use those instead.)

Form groups of 4 students, and each student takes out a piece of paper.

Explain that each student is going to write one part of the worst intro they can think of for the writing assignment the class is working on, starting with the title, then they will pass the intro to the left and write the next part, the hook, of the worst intro, based on what their classmate has already written. They will write the intro to the issue, then pass it again. Finally, they will write a thesis. In other words, they will each write one line of four different introductions. (These instructions, inspired by the game Exquisite Corpse, are the most difficult for students to grasp. I must admit my students were all over the place when I tried this. After trying to insist on my approach, I just let certain groups come up with their own way of doing it. Good luck!)

Students then read the completed intros in their groups and choose the worst of the worst, or as I like to say “the most worstest,” which are read aloud by each group. As they go around the room, point out elements that make for bad academic writing: unspecific, ungrammatical, boring, and so on. Finally, the class votes on the worst intro from the class. I give the winning group a couple of extra credit points.

If it works, it’s a lot of fun, and actually quite effective at teaching what they should be doing by pointing out what they should not be doing.

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