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Lesson Plan

Fishing for Readers: Identifying and Writing Effective Opening "Hooks"

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sarah Dennis-Shaw

Avon, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Collecting Favorite Hooks

Session 2: Sharing and Strategizing Effective Hooks

Session 3: Writing a Great Hook

Session 4: Publishing


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Identify effective hooks in literature and analyze what makes them effective

  • Categorize introductions from literature according to the specific strategies used by the author

  • Write several effective hooks of their own using the strategies they have identified

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Session 1: Collecting Favorite Hooks

1. To introduce the lesson, ask students what strategies they use when choosing a book to read. Some examples might include looking at the cover, reading the back of the book, and reading the first few lines or the first few pages.

2. Choose a picture book or novel that you believe has a really great opening. One suggestion is Rodzina by Karen Cushman, which describes a girl’s experiences on the orphan trains. Read the first page and ask students whether the author did a good job of “hooking” them into the story. Then, ask students how they would have felt if the author had instead written, “I am going to tell you a story about… (e.g., the orphan trains)” (a very common introduction among elementary writers).

3. Explain to students that the first few lines of a story or selection are sometimes called the “hook” because they are meant to hook the reader into reading the rest of the text. Tell students that they will be looking at several books with a partner and choosing their favorite hooks. Later, they will be writing their own hooks.

4. Divide students into groups of two and give each pair 7 to 10 books. (You may use the Great Hooks Bibliography as a resource.) Explain that they should read the first paragraph or page of each of their books and choose the best three hooks. Have them record these hooks, along with the book titles and authors’ names, on the Hook Hunt worksheet. They should also justify their choices by filling in the reason why they chose each hook.

5. Once students have chosen their top three hooks, ask them to circle the one that they feel is the best of the three. Tell them that they will be sharing their hooks with the class.

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Session 2: Sharing and Strategizing Effective Hooks

1. Begin by reviewing what a hook is and how we can use literary examples to help us discover the qualities of good hooks and learn to write them ourselves.

2. Using the hooks students collected from the previous session, ask each pair to read their top three hooks to the class. Students should also share their reasons for their choices. Then have each group identify the hook they chose as the best of all, and record that hook on chart paper. Repeat until all the groups have shared and all the top choices are recorded on the chart paper.

3. Reread the chart of the top hooks with students. Point out that while the words are specific to a particular narrative, the structures and strategies could transfer to other texts, and could serve as models for the students’ own writing. Ask students what they notice about the hooks that were chosen and discuss their observations.

4. Break students up into groups of three or four. Ask each group to read over the hooks on the chart and come up with some generalizations about strategies authors use to create effective hooks. What do the hooks have in common? What patterns do you notice?

5. After the groups have met, come back together as a class and have each group share the results of their discussion. Have students record the strategies they have identified on their Hook Hunt worksheet and discuss them as a class. If you have made an overhead transparency of the Hook Hunt worksheet, you can record the strategies on the transparency as you discuss each one. These strategies might include starting with:
  • Dialogue

  • Action

  • Something unexpected

  • A contrast

  • Character description

  • Description of setting

  • A question or an exclamation

  • Humor
These strategies will serve as a menu for students to choose from when they begin the process of writing their own hooks. Have students save their Hook Hunt worksheets for the next session.

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Session 3: Writing a Great Hook

1. Review the Hook Hunt worksheet with students, focusing on the strategies they identified for creating a good hook.

2. Explain to students that the same story can be introduced in different ways. You might read the beginnings of several different versions of a fairy tale as examples (see Fairy Tale Titles for suggestions).

3. Using a story familiar to the class (such as a well-known fairy tale or a book recently used for a class read-aloud), have the class devise alternative openings for the story, using various strategies from the Hook Hunt worksheet.

4. Ask students to choose a piece of writing from their writing folders that they would like to revise by creating an effective opening hook.

5. Once students have chosen the piece of writing they want to improve, ask them to choose three of the strategies for writing good hooks and write three different hooks for their piece of writing. Students should record their hooks on the Fishing for Readers With Hooks graphic organizer.

6. Have students share their various hooks with you or with a peer. They should edit and revise using the Writer’s Checklist in preparation for publication in Session 4.

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Session 4: Publishing

1. Ask students to review their Writer’s Checklist from the previous session. Explain to them that they will be publishing the hooks they wrote in a Flip Book.

2. Allow students to access the interactive Flip Book. This tool does a good job of walking students through the process. The heading for each of the Flip Book pages should be the strategy used in the hook on that page. For example, if a student wrote one hook beginning with dialogue, one beginning with humor, and one beginning with action, the Flip Book headings would be Dialogue, Humor, and Action.

3. After students’ Flip Books are completed and put together, display them in the classroom.

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Once students have completed their Flip Books, they may want to go back to their writing folder selection, add one of the new hooks they created in Session 3, and continue to edit/revise the story. When they are done, students could take turns sharing with the class the “before” and “after” versions of their story.

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Use the Writer’s Checklist to assess students’ work. Students will have already completed their checklists. Each of the six assessed objectives on the checklist can be assigned a value of 15–20 points according to your priorities for the lesson.

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