I have found that around 4th grade they get taught about "hooking" their reader in. An easy way for them to do that is to start with a question. So by 5th grade... all of them are starting their papers with questions! Now, there isn't anything extremely wrong about this in middle school, but it can get boring for the reader (aka ME). Sometimes I would like to shout, "There are other options out there people!" This means a huge part of my time is teaching the students other ways to start their essays.
To start teaching them how to write an introduction, I use this graphic organizer which I made. There are three sections
1. The broad opening statement/attention getter (*Note I didn't use the word HOOK since it is so strongly associated with asking a question for some reason)
2. Background or general information
3. The thesis
To use this template, I start by modeling. I love modeling and I love my writing journal, so I model everything in a writing journal just like the ones the students have.
The writing prompt I use is usually one that I just made up that morning and it is usually from a novel we are reading. This way it is relevant to our reading curriculum too. So I model how to write an introduction from the prompt with a little help from the class. As I am doing this, the students are also copying what I am doing down on their own organizer which is cut and pasted into their journals for future reference. It becomes their own personal writing textbook.
The next day, I will have another writing prompt that is once again usually something I made up that morning and is usually from the novel we are reading. But this time, they will be the ones telling me what to write in the graphic organizer. Everyone has out yesterdays introduction to look at and I take lots of students comments and ideas and as a class we decide on what goes into that paragraph.
Depending on how quickly and how well they are catching on, on the third day I will have them do it on their own with a partner or go straight to trying it on their own. Days 4 and 5 are on their own practice. By the 5th, we also might be switching our introductions with a peer for editing.
One final thing I should mention is that I didn't give a specific number of sentences that the students should use. I will leave that up to you! As a general rule, we go with the five sentences minimum per paragraph. But with an introduction, some turn out very repetitive because they are trying to squeeze in an extra sentence whereas others need to make theirs longer.
If you would like a copy of my graphic organizer click HERE. This link also contains a graphic organizer for how to write a thesis statement.