Fishing for Readers: Identifying and Writing Effective Opening "Hooks"
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- Standards |
- Resources & Preparation |
- Instructional Plan |
- Related Resources |
Writing a catchy introduction or "hook" often eludes even the most proficient writers. In this lesson, students work in pairs to read introductory passages from several fiction texts and rate them for effectiveness. Then, the teacher guides the class in categorizing their favorite "hooks" according to the author's strategy (e.g., question, exaggeration, exclamation, description). Strategies and examples serve as resources for students' own writing, and students can then explore how the same story can be introduced in different ways. For the final part of this lesson, students write a variety of hooks for one story topic, using the interactive Flip Book to publish their work.
Flip Book: This interactive tool allows students to create several hooks for a single story topic.
From Theory to Practice
- The first few lines of any piece of writing are essential because they set the tone and make the reader want to read on.
- A good opening line should leave the reader asking a question. This question should invite the reader to keep reading.
- The more students become aware of effective hooks in literature, the more they are able to see the importance of good introductions in their own writing.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet access
- Overhead projector (optional)
- Chart paper
- Colored markers or highlighters
- Student writing folders with previously written pieces
- Great Hooks Bibliography
- Fairy Tale Titles
- Fishing for Readers With Hooks graphic organizer
- Hook Hunt worksheet
- Writer’s Checklist
|1.||Make a photocopy of the Fishing for Readers With Hooks graphic organizer, the Hook Hunt worksheet, and the Writer’s Checklist for each student.
|2.||Make overhead transparencies of the Fishing for Readers With Hooks graphic organizer and the Hook Hunt worksheet for discussion purposes (optional).
|3.||Make arrangements to hold Session 1 in your school library if possible. Alternatively, you can gather a large number of books in your classroom (at least five per student) for students to use when searching for good leads. The Great Hooks Bibliography can serve as a starting point for your collection. Your school librarian may be able to suggest additional appropriate titles.
|4.||Visit the interactive Flip Book and check that the program works properly on your school’s computers. Bookmark the site on the computers so that it can be easily accessed by students during the lesson.
|5.||If desired, collect several different versions of a fairy tale to use in Session 3, to show that the same basic story can be introduced in different ways. See Fairy Tale Titles for suggested books.|
- 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
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.|
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:
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.|
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.|
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.
Student Assessment / Reflections
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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