“Tick, Toc, Tick, Toc…” How many of you pictured the crocodile from Peter Pan? If you have seen Peter Pan this simple phrase brings you back to the scene where Captain Hook realizes he is not alone in the water. As the viewer you are immediately engaged. You have background knowledge of what could happen to Captain Hook, you are wondering why the crocodile sounds like a ticking clock, and you continue watching because you need more! This is not the time to pause the movie to get a snack. The movie has your complete attention and that was their goal. You have been hooked!
What is a Hook?
A hook is when a teacher uses an engaging way to grab their students' attention before the lesson. Hooks can be used to connect background knowledge to the lesson, bring excitement into the students' learning, and/or provide objectives to the content. Hooks can be short around 2-5 minutes with a short video, photograph, sound clip or they can take some time by doing a virtual field trip or a movement. Think about your classroom of students. What do they respond to best? What are their interests?
Why Hook Them?
You’re standing at the front of the classroom. One student is playing with his shoe laces. Another student is watching what is happening out the window and about 8 others are daydreaming about what's for lunch and what they’re going to play at recess. Diving into rigorous content when the majority of your class is not cognitively present is for a perfect storm for a flopped lesson, confused students, and a teacher walking away frustrated. Hooks give teachers that edge they need to bring students attention back to the classroom, spark their interest, and give them the boost of energy they need to delve into the upcoming content. Did you know that the synonyms for the word “Hooked'' are enamored, captivated, absorbed? Are those not the words we want as teachers to describe our students in the act of learning!? If that alone doesn’t convince you to incorporate hooks into your lessons, maybe these reasons will!
Leads into asking questions (lingering questions)
Creates an event that students can connect to
Makes content feel more relatable and relevant
Builds classroom community and classroom culture
A vehicle for Deeper Discussions
Now that we have given you some background on what a lesson hook is and why it's so beneficial, it's time to get to what you all have been waiting for...ideas on how to implement this into your teaching! Below, we have listed some hook ideas that can be modified to any grade level or content area.
Engaging Photo: Sparks lots of discussion and predictions.
Mystery Box: Put different items in the box to give clues to what you will be learning about. Students make predictions and discuss what they believe these objects have to do with the upcoming learning. Check out Matt Miller's blog on “Unboxing” for some great ideas! Our mystery/unboxing video was created in Flipgrid!
Listen Up! Music/Sound Clips: Create or find short music or sound clips that lead to the topic of the lesson.This could be a song, verse, or sounds. If you are teaching a lesson about an ecosystem put together or find sounds of animals you might hear in that ecosystem. For an older grade, if you are studying different important historical moments take small recordings like the MLK speech to play.
Short Book or Paragraph: Find a reading that engages students and gives them a clue as to what they will be learning about.
Gallery Walk: Many times gallery walks are used at the end of a lesson/unit to showcase students’ work. However, this activity does not always need to come at the end! Have your lesson/unit start with a gallery walk. Students will observe, gather information, and ask questions. It is a great way to spark their curiosity and guide their inquiry.
Get up and MOVE!: Kinesthetic movements are a great way to engage students at the beginning of a lesson. There is also research showing that integrating movement with concepts/skills taught, students are more likely to remember those concepts/skills. And… It's FUN! (In the video clip we have students up and moving using augmented reality learning about different animals in the desert habitat.)
If you are a beginning “hook” user it can be challenging to decide or know what to do. Remember to keep your students in mind and to start off simple.
Now that you have some background knowledge and ideas, go give it a try! See for yourself how these lesson hooks engage students, keep them motivated, and bring back the joy of learning in your classroom!
Student engagement isn’t ‘silliness’ that defeats true academic work. It can be a catalyst to the learning of our dreams.”
As I said goodbye to my students, turned off the lights and walked out of my classroom for spring break of 2019 I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach I wouldn’t be returning to finish the school year with my students. Schools all around us were shutting down and the world was starting to panic. The next few weeks was an unknown waiting game. Would we return back to school? What would online teaching look like? How was I going to teach my school kids and my own? So many unknowns.
Teaching through the pandemic has taught us so much about importance, perseverance, resilience, and ourselves. Whether you are teaching online, hybrid, or face to face you have changed your way of teaching, maybe without even truly noticing that you have. We have learned so much in such a short amount of time on how to meet the needs of our students, even when they were no longer physically with us inside our classroom walls. Some of what we learned was to survive, while other things taught us, even if it was a bit unconventionally, how to be better at our job now. We learned that the “normal” we were operating in wasn't the best mode in which to teach and deliver instruction to our students. We need to find a way to change and mold education for the better. What a better time than now?
Since the pandemic began, we have heard the term “learning loss” from multitudes of people, administrators, and teachers. But we don’t agree with that term. Students were learning, even in an unconventional way. They were also learning many things other than just academics. We prefer the term “learning recovery.” We are wanting to help students recover the social, emotional, and even academic things that may have been neglected or forgotten over the course of time. In thinking in terms of learning recovery, we have created a list of ways to help learning recovery in the classroom. We hope some of these ideas will resonate with you and will be helpful to you and your students.
Learning Experiences: Create engagement, integrate content, build vocabulary, background knowledge by incorporating learning experiences into your teaching. These give a level playing field for students learning by providing the same opportunity. We incorporate these into our IntegratED Framework. If you would like ideas or need more information visit our other blogs, podcasts, and find us on social media.
Soft Start: Even as adults we are not ready to get started right away when walking into a PD day. We like to talk, get coffee, and other things before we are ready to be engaged. In my classroom we have a soft start cart that has different things for students to do after their morning journals before class begins. Some ideas to put on your soft start cart are: play-dough, puzzles, coloring sheets, thinking mats, drawing books, card games, etc. This helper students get their brains ready for the day, builds their soft skills by collaborating with peers, problem solving, and connecting.
Being aware of different learning styles: We are all different learners so being aware of your different learning styles in your students is important. Teach to students’ strengths: social, movement, auditory, kinesthetic, etc… Also, be consistant of what learning styles you are catering towards in a given lesson and/or unit. Be sure that you alter the different modes of learning styles you are tapping into all the learning styles of your students. If you are in older grades, having students take a learning styles survey at the beginning of the year, semester, or quarter, will help give you an idea of what kind of learners you have in class.
Integrated planning/teaching: Incorporate our IntegratED Framework throughout your quarters or semesters. Our IntegratED Framework guides you in delivering multi-subject and multi-standard instruction. By pairing multiple subjects together, this allows students to use their strengths to build up their weaknesses in different content areas. Need more information on this topic? Visit our blogs and social media for more ideas on how to plan and get started!
Click here to use our free template to start planning an IntegratED Unit.
Need help? Send us an email.
Community Building: Students have been separated from each other and their teachers for a long time. We need to remember to build relationships with our students face to face and earn their trust as teachers. We also need to provide students with opportunities to build relationships with one another. Students need practice working and playing together.
Classroom Culture: Build a safe and trusted learning environment by doing daily class meetings, joke of the day, or ending the day talking about what brought you joy. If you need or would like more ideas on this, check out our other blogs or podcasts!
Friends Friday: Collaborate with an older or younger grade level to practice different skills. If you teach an older grade level, use your students as role models, giving younger students help and guidance in academics, problem solving activities, etc. If you teach a younger grade level, this is an excellent opportunity for your students to receive some one on one time and help in whatever area you feel would be best. So not underestimate the power of student helpers!
Collecting Data: I know data can be boring and seem like busy work sometimes but it can also be a tool for students’ growth when done and analyzed in the right way. One idea is to be more specific with students on what they are missing when working one-on-one or in a small group. Be honest with the students and set goals WITH them, not FOR them. You can also try to create different small groups based on their goals as learners.
Be Consistent: Both us as teachers and our students need consistency. Adults and children alike need to know what to expect throughout the day. Show consistency with your students and your colleagues. Consistency with schedules, discipline, and expectations will make or break how smoothly, efficiently, and effectively your classroom runs. The hard work of keeping consistency will pay off in the long run!
Self Care: An important piece of learning we took away during teaching through the pandemic is the importance of taking care of ourselves. We have to remember to take some time to breathe so that we can still be there for our students. If we are better we will do better.
Back to Normal?: You are enough and you are doing your best. You are doing what you feel is best for your students. Stay positive and confident you are doing what you can for your students.
Interviewing for my first job I remember one of the questions being, “How do you plan on integrating technology into your classroom?”
Now, twelve years ago we said things like using the SMART board, listening to books online, finding content on the internet to enhance our lessons, or having students do research on the computer. We viewed technology completely differently than we view it today. In fact, just two years ago until now the use of technology in education has taken on a whole different meaning. Let’s stop and think for a minute about how all of us had to go on a HUGE learning curve when moving to online teaching. We had to learn new programs like Google Classroom and Schoology all while we were trying to teach our students to use the tech and learn the content. Both Kara and I follow a pretty helpful rule when using technology in our classrooms. If the content is new the technology is not. If the technology is new the content is not. This allows students to focus on one thing or the other without becoming completely overwhelmed trying to learn two major things at once.
Since our primary use of technology has changed to a platform to learn content instead of a way to showcase our learning, we need to remember to still incorporate ways for students to see the use of technology in different ways and to be able to be creative. It doesn’t matter if you are still teaching completely online, hybrid, or you are face to face in the classroom, integrating technology in a creative way can help students not only understand content, but be able to show their strengths and their creativity. We have come up with a list of different apps and ways to use technology with your students.
G Suite for Education: Whether you are waiting to create a slides presentation, use drawing for math, or write a document with hyperlinks these apps are great for incorporating creativity into your classroom with technology. These are some of our favorites from the G Suite.
Notes/Voice Memos: These apps are a great resource at any grade level. They come standard on an iPad and they’re FREE! A few of the ideas we have are geared more for the older grades, but could be modified for the younger grades as well.
GarageBand: Give students the ability to be creative with music.