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Reflective essay (making the right start)

Watch this to understand how to make an impact at the start of your Reflective essay in Higher English (and why breakfast is boring)

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My alarm screamed in my face and startled me from a really good dream. I dragged myself downstairs and made some breakfast. I had two slices of toast and cereal because today was going to be a big day and I needed all the energy I could get...

Are you bored yet? Yeah? You should be.

So is the examiner as they wade through a hundred scripts that start like this one.

They don’t want to know what you had for breakfast. They want to be captivated.

So, how do we captivate? Let’s find out and explore where to begin.

This is Thinkfour.

Often the best place to start your essay is actually in the middle, at the moment when everything changes.

You know that feeling of exhilaration when you are at the top of the roller-coaster, when you are teetering, for a split second, your heart racing, and then you tip forward, and start to fall?

Or that moment of panic as you poke your tiny fingers through the gap and realise that, shut inside the drawer, you cannot open it by yourself?

Or that feeling of trepidation as you sit in the waiting room, with your too-small legs loosely swinging under the chair, waiting for the doctor to return with the news that will change your life forever?

That moment. That’s where you start, because that’s what’s going to hook your reader.

And it’s all about the hook.

What makes your favourite binge-worthy series so binge-worthy? It’s the fact that you can’t stop watching, because every episode finishes with a hook.

The main character is about to discover a truth, the murderer is about to be revealed, the thief is about to escape... whatever it might be, the writers end the episode there because they know that you will watch the next one to find out what happens.

It’s that anticipation that you want to evoke in your reader; you want to make them wonder: how did you get to this point?

If you start at the beginning of your day with a lengthy build up, the examiner will have already lost interest by the end of your introduction.

Just as you won’t binge a whole series if the first episode doesn’t grab you, neither will the examiner be excited about reading paragraph two if you haven’t hooked them.

So where do you go next?

Well, you want to answer your hooked reader’s question – you want to tell them how you got to this point.

What were the events that led to this moment?

This is where you can start your reflection.

You might like to consider what your feelings were before the event, because the event itself is a catalyst for change.

It works well if your feelings or personality trait before contrast with what they become after the moment, because this gives you an opportunity to show growth, resilience and self-awareness. And in a Reflective Essay, these are key ingredients.

Once you have established your set-up, you can return to the event itself, tell the rest of your story and show how it has shaped you into the person you are today.

So before you start writing, close your eyes. Imagine yourself as the star of your own binge-worthy boxset...

What are you seeing? What is on the screen that is making you want to keep watching?

Are you opening a letter?

Are you standing in the rain, crestfallen, watching her walk away from you?

Are you holding his fragile hand in yours, listening to the too-loud beep of the machine?

Whatever you, the star, is doing, it is certainly NOT sleeping or waiting for your alarm to go off or describing your breakfast.

So go and find your hook, and make the start matter.

This was thinkfour, thanks for watching.