Yes, every book does have its cover and for a reason. The cover is the most important part of the book. Why? Well not because it tells the story or has “content” or “stuff”. Rather, because it fires us up, it gets us motivated, it stirs our soul. It creates anticipation – that potent elexir that all students (and teachers) need to drink.
Our lessons are similar. We need a HOOK! Something to create energy and excitement about our time together. And I don’t just mean chit-chat and the usual start of class bantering. I mean something that creates a metaphor for the content and suggests how sweet and delicious the meal (lesson) will be.
I have many “hooks” I use. I’ve mentioned a few below. But first, here is an example I use often in teacher training to highlight the need of teachers to “bring the unknown into the known” – which is the basic principle of teaching. It is a picture and I ask teachers to turn to a partner and tell them what they see.
I then write “Cow” on the board or the power point. Do they see the cow? If needed, I then outline the cow with a pen or ppt highlight marker. (if you need help, it is on the left, face/snout facing you).
After this, the workshop goes well. Teachers get the point and are “hooked”. We then discuss basic teaching principles for contextualizing content and getting students to “see the cow”. Here are some more optical illusions that might work.
All our lessons should have a hook! And I’m not talking about the now ubiquitous,”put on a youtube video to get everyone engaged/excited , technique”. No. Videos are great but they seldom are a hook. A hook needs human conversation and exchange. A story, an experiment, a magic trick, a demonstration, a picture. It needs real shared surprise!
If you haven’t gotten the point yet, read on through a few of my favorite “hooks” and what they are good for teaching. You’ll soon understand
1. The 3 cup magic trick. This guy explains it completely, so watch the video. I do this in class and the students are amazed! I use it to teach sequences. First, first of all, the first thing / Next, then, after that / lastly, finally, last but not least.
2. The birthday trick. Great for introducing months or as a listening exercise for students. Read about it HERE on Teaching Recipes. I used this all year with my grade 4 class and they constantly were hunting about to find out how I knew their birthdays!
3. The Full Bowl Science experiment. Fill up a whole bowl with water, right to the brim. Make sure you have paper towel underneath. Then ask the students to predict how many coins you can drop in it, before it will overflow. Get them to write their predictions down. Then start counting (yes, this is for teaching numbers!). You will be amazed and too your students. It will hold lots of coins – bring many. Finally, with higher level students, discuss why it can hold so many (because the surface of water has tension and a “skin” that allows it to go over the rim – that’s why insects can walk on top of water!).
4. The money trick. I use this to teach about currencies of the world or for any lesson involving money. Bring a student to the front. Take out a nice, crisp bill. Put one of your elbows on a desk and place the money between a thumb and forefinger. Drop the bill and catch it between your fingers. Simple right? Well, it is easy for you because you know when it will be dropped. Do the same with the student and tell them if they catch it (they can’t lower their hand with the bill), they can keep it. You’ll have fun!