Good beginnings draw the reader into a story. Gather a selection of books with different beginnings, sometimes called leads, to share
with your students. It is only necessary to read the beginning of each. Discuss the different types of beginnings, then ask which one
makes them want to hear the rest of the story and why that is so. Have students select a previously written narrative, or begin a new
one, and write three beginnings for their stories each of which uses a different approach. Let them share and tell which beginning they
think best suits the story they wish to tell or, in the case of the previously written stories, works better than what they started with. Not
every beginning works for every story. Encourage students to have 2 or 3 sentences for each beginning, enough to tell if the beginning
is effective. If students are stuck in the "One beautiful, sunny day...." mode, this will help them see new possibilities for that first line.
Author Title Summary Curriculum Character
* Indicates Out of Print
Ackerman, Karen Song and Dance Man Grandpa enjoys reliving his Social Studies Respect
(Beginning: introduces vaudeville days for the
the character) grandchildren.
Allard, Harry The Stupids Die The Stupids think they are dead Responsibility
(Beginning: dialogue) when the lights go out.
Bunting, Eve Going Home Carlos and his family travel home Social Studies Citizenship
(Beginning: a character to Mexico for Christmas. Cultural Group: Hispanic
Clement, Rod Grandpa’s Teeth Soon after Grandpa’s teeth Social Studies Honesty
(Beginning: the main disappear from a glass beside
character is speaking) his bed, the whole town is under
Cooney, Barbara Eleanor A timid, orphaned girl grows up Social Studies Perseverance
(Beginning: introduces to become First Lady.
Disalvo-Ryan, A Dog Like Jack Finding and losing a boy’s best Health Responsibility
Dyanne (Beginning: factual) friend: his dog.
Duke, Kate Aunt Isabel Tells a Good Aunt Isabel and her niece,
One Penelope, create a story
(Beginning: dialogue) including all the necessary
Herriot, James Moses the Kitten Dr. Herriot finds Moses near a Social Studies Compassion
(Beginning: bold farm pond in winter nearly frozen Multicultural
statement by the to death and takes him home
narrator) where something unusual
Hoffman, Mary Amazing Grace Grace is determined to be Peter Social Studies Perseverance
(Beginning: introduces Pan in the school play. Multicultural
Hofsepian Why Not? Original folktale of a solemn man Health Responsibility
(Beginning: strong who adopts two cats only to Multicultural
statement) discover he needs two laps. He
solves the dilemma and learns
how love can grow.
Hooks, William The Mighty Santa Fe* At Christmas, William has to Health Courage
(Beginning: figurative leave behind his cherished train
language) set when his family goes to visit
his frightening great
Houston, Gloria My Great-Aunt Arizona Arizona grows up and teaches in Social Studies Caring
(Beginning: introduces the same one room schoolhouse
the character) she attended as a child.
Howard, Arthur When I Was Five A six-year-old boy describes Social Studies
(Beginning: things he liked when five and
announcement) compares them to things he likes
Howard, Elizabeth Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Sunday afternoons Sarah and Social Studies Respect
Crabcakes later) Susan visit Aunt Flossie and Cultural Group: African-
(Beginning: setting) hear stories of old times while American
sharing cookies, crabcakes, and
Koralack, Jenny The Boy and the Cloth A boy who has worn holes in his Health Courage
of Dreams cloth of dreams must find
(Beginning: mysterious) courage to help mend the cloth.
Krull, Kathleen Wilma Unlimited African-American woman who Health Perseverance
(Beginning: factual) overcame polio as a child to Cultural group: African-
become the first woman to win 3 American
gold medals in track in a single
Mayer, Mercer There’s a Nightmare in A little boy fears the dark and the
My Closet monster in his closet.
(Beginning: begins with
McCully, Emily Mirette on the High Wire Mirette wants Bellini, the world Cultural group: French Perseverance
(Beginning: setting) famous high-wire walker, to
teach her how to walk the high
Mendez, Phil The Black Snowman A magical kente brings a black Social Studies Courage
(Beginning: mysterious) snowman to life and helps a Cultural Group: African-
young boy discover his heritage American
Noble, Trinka The Day Jimmy’s Boa A boy relates the events of his
Ate the Wash school field trip.
(Beginning: begins with
Ottley, Matt What Faust Saw Faust, a bumbling dog, tries to
(Beginning: mysterious) get the family’s attention only to
be put outside in the midst of
Pfister, Marcus Boris Beaver Can a beaver and a frog become Science Respect
(Beginning: setting) good friends?
Pinckney, Andrea Duke Ellington Biography of Duke Ellington, the Social Studies
(Beginning: question) jazz playin’ man’s story is told in Cultural Group: African-
jazzy language. American
Polacco, Patricia Casey at the Bat Polacco has added a beginning Responsibility
and Ernest (Beginning: question) and ending to the popular
Lawrence narrative poem that places it in
the context of a Little League.
Rylant, Cynthia Night in the County Describes the sights and sounds Social Studies Respect
(Beginning: dramatic) of the country.
Sharmart, Marjorie Gila Monsters Meet You A New York City boy’s Social Studies Courage
at the Airport preconceived ideas of life in the
(Beginning: introduces west make him apprehensive
the character) about moving.
Simmons, Jane Come Along, Daisy Daisy has a mind of her own and Health Responsibility
(Beginning: dialogue) doesn’t obey her mother.
Steig, William Shrek! The chronicles of a nasty ogre’s
Beginning: introduces wonder years.
Steig, William Sylvester and the Magic In a moment of fright, Sylvester Courage
Pebble the donkey asks his magic
(Beginning: introduces pebble to turn him into a rock
the character) and then he can’t hold the pebble
to wish himself back to normal
Trivazas, Eugene The Three Little Wolves A great version of the old fairy Science Courage
and the Big Bad Pig tale
Tudor, Tash Corgiville Fair Satirical story about a county fair. Social Studies Honesty
Viorst, Judith The Tenth Good Thing A little boy must deal with the Health Caring
about Barney death of his pet.
(Beginning: starts in the
Yolen, Jane Encounter A young Indian boy’s tale of Social Studies Responsibility
(Beginning: mysterious) Columbus coming to the new Multicultural
Yorinks, Arthur Hey, Al Al and his dog yearn for a better Social Studies Respect
(Beginning: introduces life.
Yorinks, Arthur Louis the Fish An unhappy butcher from Social Studies Responsibility
(Beginning: starts at the Flatbush finally is happy.