How to Write Winning Prose & Poetry Introductions

One of the most daunting parts of the Prose and Poetry is writing your own introductions. It's tricky, time consuming and if you don't do it right, you might not meet the required criteria to perform your piece. We wanted to set the record straight on how to write these vital pieces to your UIL performance. 

Why it's required

When you perform a prose or poetry piece in a UIL setting, an introduction is necessary. You have to provide your audience with enough information to ready them for your piece as well as inform your judge about the title, author and theme of your performance. How you craft your introduction can also set the tone for the piece. We believe a well-crafted introduction can set a performer apart from the rest. 

What you need

At the most basic level, an introduction requires a bit about the story as well as the titles and authors of your pieces. For more elaborate introductions, you could use a relevant quote or reference a recent news topic-more on that below. 

Figure out what the whole story boils down to or perhaps the theme. This should be the bridge that connects the performer to the audience. Use this bridge to create a conversation. 

Create a conversation

While the body of the piece will be an interpretation of the prose or poetry piece, the introduction should come straight from the performer. Discuss the piece with your student. Ask these questions

  • How to you connect to the piece?
  • Why would you want to share this piece with an audience?
  • What common ground do you think you (the student) and they (the audience/judge) will share through this piece?

Once you have these answered, start crafting a conversation the performer would have with the audience. This should be delivered in a conversational yet professional tone. Judges hate when they can't tell the difference between the actual piece and the intro. Make sure you use your natural, conversational voice when delivering the introduction. It will set you above other performers who fail to differentiate the two. 

Meet the Criterion 

As you may know, prose and poetry pieces are decided based on categories. These categories are as follows:

  • Poetry Category A: A Journey Through Time
    • The goal of this category is to examine a decade and/or social/political movement. In this category, a contestant shall perform a program centered on a time period and/or movement such as but not limited to: The Great Depression, Animal Rights, Civil Rights, Women's Liberation, etc. 
  • Poetry Category B: Journey with Poets
    • The contestant shall perform a poem, multiple poems or excerpts of poems written by one of more poet whore biography appears on the website 
  • Prose Category A: Inspiring My Journey
    • The goal of this category is to explore the concept of past or present heroes/heroines or survivors.
  • Prose Category B: Expanding the Journey
    • The goal of this program is to develop a thematic program using different types of literature. The contestants shall read a minimum of two different types of literary sources by different authors but no more than four sources. Thematic programs may include but are not limited to: social/cultural issues, archetypes or individuals. If the program is woven, the contestant shall state it in the introduction.  

As you can see, there's a lot of criterion to meet with an introduction. Whatever category you're performing in, keep the theme in mind as you write your introduction and find that connection between the performer and audience. Need more information on Prose and Poetry documentation? Read all about it on UIL's website here

Let's imagine we've got a student performing in Poetry A: A Journey Through Time. The student,a girl, has chosen to focus on the women's suffrage movement and connect it to her own experience as a girl.  Her piece might go something like this:

TEASER: *insert snippet from piece on women's voting rights here*

INTRO: For me, it's hard to imagine not being able to vote for the very country I live in. The idea that women were once stopped from performing this basic right is almost laughable today. But the scars, both physical and emotion, that were collected during the early twentieth century by pioneering feminists, are nothing to scoff at. In this collection of poems, "Womyn with a Y," and "What Next" by Jessica Martin and "The Real Blindness" by Vania Larden-Ross, we see how a problem solved nearly 100 years ago still follows women today. "Womyn with a Y" by Jessica Martin.

PIECE: *begin "Womyn with a Y"*

Now let's dissect it. The opening sentence explains how this performer, as a woman, is connected to the issue. It makes a clear reference to the well-known social movement of women's suffrage as well as opening up  a commentary that any modern person can relate to. She then introduces her pieces and respective authors and wraps up her intro with a note on why this story is still relevant today. Pretty good, right? P.S. these aren't real pieces. We've made them up just to simulate a piece. They sound like they'd be pretty cool, though! 

So to meet all the necessary parts of a prose and poetry introduction, you need the following:

  1. A connection between the performer and the piece
  2. Proof of how the piece is relevant to the category you are performing in
  3. A connection between the piece's story/theme and the audience
  4. Titles and authors

Side note: Waiting to hear about next year's categories? Us too! As soon as we know, we'll break them down and share them with you. Follow us on Facebook to be the first to know! 

Standard vs Teaser

Here's where you have to get very granular with your piece. Does it require a standard or teaser intro and why? A standard intro is one that precedes all the content of the piece. A performer will recite the intro then move into the full piece uninterrupted. A teaser intro requires a performed to find the perfect story tease, usually 30 seconds or less. Then he or she moves into the introduction and follows that with the rest of the story. While I do adore a good teaser intro, both are powerful in the right setting. 

My general rule of thumb is this: the more controversial or emotionally charged the piece, the more likely it needs a teaser introduction. You can start out with a powerful quote from the piece to really set the tone and sober up the audience. Then shift gears with your informational and conversational introduction. Then, with the proper tone and physical presence, the performer can bring us right back to that potent storyline and finish the piece out strong. 

Be Prepared 

One of the most recent updates in UIL rules is the requirement to have your piece(s) written on paper to hand to your judges. I absolutely love this ruling for two reasons: it makes it so much easier on judges to track all the information about a piece AND it puts my mind at ease knowing one of my students can't forget a title or author when I've already typed it all up for them. 

So here's your reminder: have this piece of paper ready as well as formatted for your introduction. I know it might be nit-picky but I always make sure the way pieces are listed on that paper is the same order that a performer says them in his or her introduction. I know it seems like a minute detail, but it makes everything seems more professional. 

Want a Free Intro Writing Worksheet? 

Get it right here.

It might be a little overwhelming to take all this information in. If you ever get stuck creating an intro, try this: think about the way you would introduce this piece to a group of friends in a casual conversation. You'd casually give a summary of the story and how it's relevant to the group then probably offer the title and author of the piece for reference. If you put it in that perspective, creating intros can be a breeze.

Did this article help you and your students? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! We'd love to hear your tips and tricks on how you build your pieces.