When your students first walk into your classroom you have that instant to give them an impression of what you have planned for them for that day. You can hook them instantly (also known as the anticipatory set). Or they can enter the room, see the status quo, and sit down, already tuned out. Then it is your job to fight the uphill battle to get them engaged.
Students are used to walking into a classroom, sitting down (whether in assigned seating or not), and waiting for the teacher to start talking.
Thirteen years of this, day in and day out, can get pretty tedious and boring. And if they aren’t interested in the subject you are teaching, you just multiplied that boredom factor even more.
So the question becomes how to hook your students instantly upon entering the classroom? You hook students instantly by appealing to their senses in ways that draw them to the education they are receiving in your classroom.
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What is a Hook?
A hook, otherwise known as the anticipatory set, is a short amount of time, usually no more than 5 minutes, where you do some activity that creates variety in your classroom routine and is designed to instantly engage your students to enthusiastically learn for the rest of the class period.
Let’s look at four great ways to do that:
- Visuals related to your days activities that are clearly visible as they walk into the classroom.
- Videos that introduce a concept.
- Play dress up.
- Be available for conversation.
1. Have Visuals Related to Your Day’s Activities Clearly Visible
I have a table near the door to the class that stands by itself. It is one of the first things the students see as they enter the classroom.
Over the course of a typical school day, there should be at least 3 or 4 “special” things for the students to look forward to. Whether that is a math game to introduce a new concept, a craft related to the book you are reading as a class, or a new food to drive home a history lesson, it is something different than reading along in a book or sitting and watching the teacher talking.
All of these things have displayable components. And you can choose to display them in a couple of different ways. For items that you plan that don’t have physical components, you could always do a word play picture to try to get them to relate to the activity.
My class loved when I put things out on the table with no indication of what they were representing. Then they had to try to guess. Sometimes it was super easy, like when I had something related to our reading class. Most of the books we read were classic literature or pop culture books that at least some of the kids had read. So it could be easy if they knew what was coming up.
And of course a couple of different pies on March 14 would be totally obvious to a large number of students as to what you would be talking about that day if you chose to introduce or review that concept on that day.
If you were planning to play a game to teach a concept, then components of the game arranged on the table makes a great introduction.
You could also have small descriptions of each of the items on the table so there is no guessing. You could put a description of the item and even how it ties into the lesson. And you could put the subject that it relates to if you teach in a class that does not rotate class periods.
Generally speaking, the more things you can put on that table, the more engaged your students will be. Almost exponentially so! Three to five items would make a great display.
2. Videos that Introduce a Concept
How to hook your students with videos–
There is a website called classhook.com that has video clips from movies and tv shows. It is designed to be used in classrooms from K-12 and even through college. There is a short one-minute Youtube video explaining the basics of their program.
But it actually goes even deeper than that with a paid subscription. You can insert live discussions, pause prompts, vocabulary search, in-video search, clip insights, and about a dozen more features.
Or you can always make your own video or find a quick video online.
The idea here is that once a video starts playing, you instantly grab the attention of virtually every single student. And the classroom goes silent except for the video playing.
You literally have a captive (captivated) audience!
The great thing about the internet is that you can find literally anything that fits all of the concepts/classes you are teaching. You may have to get creative sometimes, but that kind of makes it even more fun!
If you can’t find the exact concept you want to teach in video form, then you can always find something that is talked about and use that to get their attention and then draw it back to your subject.
For instance, if you were teaching on prepositions, rather than using an instructional video on prepositions (because honestly, unless it’s schoolhouse rock what video on prepositions is going to actually hook your students?!), you could find a video that doesn’t talk about prepositions at all. But it may be teaching another really important life concept.
Let’s say you choose to watch “The Present.” It is a 4 minute video that teaches a great life lesson.
Once the video is over, uncover a board that has questions on it related to the video. Unless you have a smart board, and in that case, just turn it on and start working through the questions. Make sure that all of the answers are prepositions! Once you have gone through the questions and answers, you can then explain to them how all of those answers point them to the concept at hand. And then you can teach on through the day’s lesson.
A good display item for your table would be a stuffed dog or a picture of a dog. They will never guess that it ties into prepositions. Even if you label it that way, they won’t get the connection until you do the hook! But they will have a great time guessing!
As an added benefit, starting with a hook like that will actually shorten your instruction time. The picture you are giving them is vivid and allows them to learn the concept in a much shorter time. But it also allows them to retain the lesson because it was delivered in a unique way.
Of course, in this case, your hook ended up taking more like 10 minutes of time. But the life lesson you taught in addition to the tie to prepositions is something that can last a lifetime for some if not most of your students!
The point is that you got their attention and now they are ready to learn.
This works for all of you parents out there who are reading this!
If your child brings home some homework that he/she just can’t grasp the concept, then you can always do this trick yourself.
Rather than beating yourself over the head trying to find a way to explain it that they actually understand, make a visual picture that they can tangibly learn from. Your job gets completed in less time. And you enjoyed some fun time with them while you were doing work that needed to get done!
There IS a schoolhouse rock on prepositions.
3. Play Dress Up
How to hook your students by playing dress up? This one can take many forms.
You can dress up to reference a certain character or famous person.
It can be an author of a book you are reading. Or it can be Isaac Newton to communicate how he discovered one of his laws of nature.
Another way you can change your appearance is to show up differently than you normally do. Show up in a bathrobe to talk about a study on sleep and its benefits. Wear a crazy hairstyle if your science lesson for the day is on the components of hair.
Dress like you are from the 1980’s if you are teaching a history lesson from the 80’s. Or dress like the 1880’s if that is the era you are teaching about!
You get the point. There are infinite possibilities here. Many times, turning it into something creative is just a matter of taking one word out of the lesson content and figuring out how to make that visual for your students. And generally it can even be loosely tied to the concept but still brought back around to make the connection. And sometimes those are the concepts that are retained the best because they are generally more memorable.
4. Be Available for Conversation
How to hook your students with conversation?
This one may be the easiest of all. Except for the table display, which is pretty easy because you are already doing those things, there is no prep work involved here.
It is just a matter of being near the table to intentionally greet your kids.
Generally speaking, the table is going to be the conversation starter. And the students are going to immediately engage as soon as they walk in and see what is on the table.
And all that leaves is for you to engage back with them regarding how you want that table to play out in your class time!
Your students will feel like you did something extra special for them because you did. You thought of them and how to make their day a little bit better. And they will know that you are listening to them because you were willing to engage them directly and personally.
And that is the heart of educating and learning!
Printable Hook Checklist
Here is a printable weekly checklist that you can add to your lesson planner. It will help you to balance out the variety of activities and the correlating subject that you use to hook your class. Since there are literally hundreds of ways you can do this, I left lots of blank spaces for you to fill in the special hooks that work for your class!
Just click on it to grab your copy.
The phrase, “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is very well applied here. Although you could get a second chance because your students are kind of your captive audience for the year, you don’t want to fight that uphill battle. you want to please them the first time around.
All of this ties in well to the concept of encouraging your students to learn to love reading, and learning for that matter! You can read more about this in my article here.
Tell me what creative things you have done for your class or with your kids at home that made them excited about learning!