Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hook Your Reader!

Getting kids to start their writing with an interesting "hook" is vital to good writing! I always start with just three of the tried and true hooks, a quote, surprising fact, or a question. (see the anchor chart below). There's many more, but this is a good place to start without overwhelming kids. Once they have the basic three down, add more!

What's a Hook?  It's something that "hooks" your reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading. When teaching hooks pull some of your class's favorite books and look at those first paragraphs. Discuss what makes them great. Get a copy of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson. The first sentence in the books says, "The Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world!".  How can you ever put that book down???

What are some of the primary "hooks" writers use?

1. Use a quote: It can be a literary quote, a quote from a famous person or even a quote from your favorite TV program or store. "There's nothing to fear, but fear itself."
2. Start with a question. This method is very easy for younger students to use. "Why did he go into the haunted house?"
3. Start with an exciting scene or event. The explaination can always come later, but the exciting event will make readers want to keep reading.
4. Use an surprising fact or statistic.
5. Start with a very short (no more than five words) interesting sentence. For example, "He thought it would explode."
6. Start with a metaphor or simile. "He knew he was in a pickle! Now what could he do?"
7. Use onomatopoeia, for example, "Crash!"
8. Use an interjection, for example, "Stop"!
9. Dialogue, sometimes the conversation between two people, or the person's thinking to himself can be a very compelling hook.
10. An interesting anecdote. "It was my first dive into the ocean. Little did I know what was about to happen!"

Need a good idea to help students learn the different "hooks"?  Ask students to take their favorite fairy tale and rewrite the first sentence of that fairy tale using the hooks above.  Students of any age would love this! To make it even more fun, do it in groups!! It would look something like this:

The three bears:
1. (question) What do you think would happen if a human girl broke into a bear's house?
2. (Metaphor/simile) Goldilocks knew she was in a pickle! It had started so innocently!
3. (dialogue) "I shouldn't, I really shouldn't go into the bear's house. They're not even home. I really, really shouldn't, but I will!"

The following anchor chart is a good one to start students into thinking about how to hook their reader. Using only three techniques at first makes it easier for younger students to concentrate on exactly what they should do.

How about a terrific writing prompt to get those writing juices flowing? Your kids will LOVE this! First watch the video, then decide what other games would make a good 3D adventure. Pure fun and pure creativity! This would be a GREAT time to add a fun "hook"!

Happy writing!