Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Hooking Your Reader

Writing Personal Narratives

K20 Center, Gage Jeter | Published: May 26th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition, A.P. Literature and Composition, Composition, Creative Writing
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120 minutes


Through collaborative research, students will locate, evaluate, and create effective, engaging hooks for a variety of texts. Students will also write a personal narrative and share their openings with fellow classmates. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 9th grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 9 through 12, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

How do effective writers include an engaging hook in the introduction of their piece? How do writers craft interesting stories about themselves? 



Students will listen to a picture book as a class and jot down notices and wonderings.


Students will collaboratively explore hooks from novels and determine types/categories of hooks.


Students will define and determine the function of hooks before creating a "Great Hooks" flip book through independent and collaborative research.


Students will determine characteristics of - and craft their own - personal narrative.


Students will present the hooks of their personal narratives to the class and provide feedback for their peers. Students will also submit their personal narratives for evaluation and reflect on their learning.


  • Multicolored paper

  • Picture books (or access to YouTube links)

  • Access to a school or classroom library

  • Writing materials - pencil, pen, paper, etc.

  • Computer/Internet access

  • Copies of attachments


To engage students in this lesson, the teacher should either read or play a video of a children's picture book.

As students read/watch/listen to the picture book, ask them to jot down on a scratch piece of paper what they notice and what they wonder, using the I Notice, I Wonder instructional strategy.

After reading/watching/listening to the picture book, encourage students to share their observations and questions with a partner. Then, conduct a brief whole-class discussion in which students share out their ideas. Encourage students to think specifically about the first words, line, or sentence of the picture book.

During the whole-class discussion, pose the essential question to the class:

  • How do effective writers include an engaging hook in the introduction of their piece?

Allow for students to brainstorm ideas independently and collectively. Also encourage students to consider something personal in their life, maybe a memory they have. Some students could share out an introduction to their memory/experience, initiating a class discussion about whose story students want to hear expanded. Classmates can consider how the introductions hooked the listeners?

Inform students that the activities during this lesson are designed to help them answer this essential question.


Students will investigate opening lines of novels in order to determine how effective writers hook and hold their readers' attention.

  1. Randomly distribute a slip of paper with a hook on it to each student.

  2. Ask the students to individually read the hook and THINK about if and how it catches their attention.

  3. Instruct student to PAIR up with a classmate who has the same hook.

  4. Pairs should now SHARE their reactions to the hook.

  5. After brief conversations, ask students to switch slips of paper with a classmate who has a DIFFERENT hook.

  6. Repeat this process with students thinking about the hook, pairing up with another who has the same "new" hook, and having a brief conversation about their reactions. This process can be repeated several times so students read and consider a variety of hooks from various novels.

Once students have engaged in several rounds (or however many you consider appropriate, given the time and your students' needs), ask students to return to their desks and individually construct a Two-Minute Paper reflecting on the hooks they read and conversations they had with their classmates. Encourage them to consider different types of hooks they viewed and how they might categorize them.

After two minutes, ask students to share their writing with an elbow partner, and then ask for a few volunteers to share out their ideas with the whole class.

Toward the end of this portion of the lesson, students should have an understanding of different types of hooks and if/how they are effective in catching readers' attention.

Concerning various types of hooks, possible ideas, reactions, and responses might include*:

  1. DROP YOUR READER INTO A SCENE: Use sensory details to describe a scene, giving your reader an immediate sense of time and place.

  2. ESTABLISH THE MOOD: Contextual information not directly related to the story can often color our understanding of the coming narrative.

  3. INTRODUCE VOICE: Stories that begin with a highly unusual voice often withhold other craft elements for a few sentences—a reasonable choice, as the reader may need to adjust to a new form of language before being able to absorb much in the way of content.

  4. TELL AN ANECDOTE: An anecdote is a short story. It can be a story about your own experience or someone else’s experience. Use an anecdote to make a point.

  5. ASK A RHETORICAL QUESTION: A rhetorical question is a statement in the form of a question. You ask a rhetorical question to make a point, not to get an answer.

  6. STATE A FACT: The entire weight of the narrative can sometimes be conveyed in a single statement. In many cases, two facts combined are more powerful than either one on its own. Because readers don’t read backward, it’s possible to bury a key piece of a story in an opening so that, by the time it becomes relevant, the reader has forgotten it.

  7. QUOTE DIRECTLY: A quote, or quotation, is a passage that you use in your own writing that was originally written or spoken by someone else. You indicate a quote by putting quotation marks.


Now, students will create a "Great Hooks" flip book and label each section as a different type/category of hook. Each student will need the following materials:

  • Four sheets of multicolored paper (in reality, white copy paper will work fine)

  • Stapler

  • Markers/colored pencils/crayons

Great Hooks Flip Book example