This mini-craft lesson on hooks comes in the form of a story.
I start my writing class with a creativity starter that we like to call seven minutes. It begins with a journal prompt, and the kids have seven minutes to respond. Grammar, spelling, and whatever other inhibitors to getting the words on the paper are banned. I tell my young authors, “If you think you made a mistake, circle it and move on. We’ll edit later.”
After the time has passed, the class discusses what they wrote. We bypass content and dive into their approach to the topic. My first question is: Did you write using an expository or narrative tone?
This is a trick. For years, when kids read essay prompts, they stumbled on words like exposition, informative, persuasive, and narrative. This year, those words and others, like point of view, protagonist, and thesis are in their social vocabulary fall out of their mouth in regular discussion.
Next, we discuss different facets of the writings. How did you answer the question? Share your favorite three sentences.
Notice how we’re not discussing grammar. Don’t worry. This is also a trick. In December, my young creatives have tons of material to practice grammar corrections. I’ll have them swap pages and red pencil away.
In one post writing conversations, a fabulous teachable moment burst to the front of the lesson. In the least likely moment, my class discussed—hooks. It was by accident. You could say we were hooked. Haha get it… Anyway, it started with a simple request. “Share three of your favorite sentences.”
The first person shared his three sentences. Our once hesitant author blew all of our minds.
A girl who is usually excited to share muttered, “Mine isn’t that good.”
The second person read. Her eyes flitted toward me, pleading. “Can you forget that I didn’t share?”
I didn’t forget.
However, I gave her the option to pass.
She chose to share.
What she wrote was bland. BUT something happened when she read her third sentence.
“There’s your hook!” I exclaimed.
The class fell silent.
I hadn’t taught hooks. They knew they had to pull the reader in. However, they admitted to not having a firm grasp on the skill.
“You buried your hook,” I explained to the student, knowing the entire class had invested in this lesson. I nodded like a mother prodding her child to take the stage during a choir performance. “Take that last sentence and throw it at the beginning of what you wrote.
She blinked, reread it, and a slow glow took over her face. “I like it!”
I was just as pleased. “See, you did have a compelling lead. You just buried it in the middle.”
Other kids who passed on sharing their sentences wanted a second chance. “Can I change my mind and share my three sentences with the class?”
Of course, I said, “Yes!”
They read their pieces, and every time, we found the hooks buried below that first line. They loved their writing.
I loved teaching.
While wrapping up the lesson, I commended the students for committing their words to paper, reiterating two concepts. Perfect is the enemy of done, which takes us to the next important point. You cannot revise a blank page. They looked at the before and after and knew I spoke the truth.
Here is the takeaway from this little vignette from my teacher’s life. In the first draft, avoid the trap of pondering strong starts or finishes. Get the words to paper. Once we let go of expectations, the creative brain will give provide the hooks.