Captain of a hook: 10 engaging lesson introduction ideas


Creativity | Thursday, September 2, 2021

Captain of a hook: 10 engaging lesson introduction ideas

This post is written by Megan Diede and Kara Risby. Megan and Kara both currently teach primary at Prairie Wind Elementary in Gillette, Wyoming. They are also the founders of IntegratED LLC a framework that challenges teachers to find a new norm and their teaching.

“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?

Imagine 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 for is 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!  

Lesson hooks:  

  • Increase student engagement and motivation
  • Are an attention grabber
  • Lead into asking questions (lingering questions)
  • Spark curiosity 
  • Create an event that students can connect to
  • Make content feel more relatable and relevant
  • Build classroom community and classroom culture
  • Are a vehicle for deeper discussions
  • Are really FUN

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 10 hook ideas that can be modified to any grade level or content area.  

10 engaging lesson hooks

#1. The movie trailer hook

Using iMovie or Clips create a short video that includes ideas of the content being taught (see the example clip below). Remember not to give them too much information. Keep them wondering.

#2. The video hook

Video clips on the subject (volcano exploding, fast erosion on a street, venus flytrap getting food, stop motion of a plant dying etc..). YouTube is a great resource for short clips!

#3. The photo hook

"A picture is worth 1000 words." And it's true! Images spark lots of discussion and predictions. Use them to engage your students and preview a lesson.

#4. The mystery box hook

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!

#5. Listen up! The music hook

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. 

#6. The creative hook

Bring in the visual arts by having students create something with play-doh with clues from the lesson, use watercolors or paint to introduce a concept. 

#7. The short book hook

Find a reading that engages students and gives them a clue as to what they will be learning about.  

#8. The gallery walk hook

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.

#9. Get up and move! The kinesthetic hook

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!

#10. The adventure hook

Plan a field trip or excursion that will get students excited for what is to come.  The beauty of technology is that it allows us to take our students on adventures without leaving our classroom! Virtual field trips, virtual reality apps, and augmented reality apps are great resources for this type of hook.  Google Expeditions, Google Maps, Google Earth, National Geographic are all apps and websites we have used for this type of hook. 

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.

Tech Like A Pirate book cover

“Student engagement isn’t ‘silliness’ that defeats true academic work. It can be a catalyst to the learning of our dreams.”

~Matt Miller, Tech Like a Pirate

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