Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Hook

My first TESL gig was a four-hour-per-week pronunciation class that met over the lunch hour. The afternoon that will stick forever in my memory is the day I brought my African drum to school. Having just recently hired me, my supervisor had advised me that he wanted to sit in on one of my lessons just to get a feel for my teaching style.

Fresh from my TESL course, I dutifully put together a lesson plan with all the requisite parts. Since it was to be a lesson on syllabification and stress, I thought that my drum would make a nice hook. I would set the drum atop my desk and leave it there in plain sight as learners arrived and took their seats.

"Why might I have brought this drum in today?" I could ask them. That would be a great hook.

So much about my teaching has changed since those first months. And though I don't always remember or bother to start each lesson with a hook, I probably should. Certainly I notice a deeper sense of engagement on the part of the learners when I pull it off well.

Tuesday, the antepenultimate school day before summer break, was to be sports and activities day. There would be floor hockey and dance lessons in the auditorium while my classroom space would host board game stations.

I figured there were two ways I could go about preparing my students to open our space as a game room. I could greet them from the front of the class with that typically nasal teacher voice: "Today, class, we are going to learn to play some North American board games."


I could try to hook them.

The fact that my morning group has expressly requested that we waste spend zero time playing games helped me decide which approach to take. Before anyone arrived, I removed some game pieces from their boxes and placed them at students' places around the room. On the board I wrote a few questions:

  • How many people can play this game?
  • What is the object of this game?
  • How do you play it?
  • What are the rules?

I then left to finish my photocopying, ensuring the students would have some time in the space to ponder the objects and questions without me there. I like giving curiosity time to mount.

How about you? 

Do you believe that starting with a 'hook' makes for a better lesson? If so, is there a favourite way to get that instant engagement that you'd like to share with other teachers? I'd love it if you'd leave your idea in the comments.

By the way, games and activities day went really well. The supposedly games-averse seniors really got into Tangoes and Quarto. Two men enjoyed their Scrabble match so much that one asked to borrow the board so as to be able to play with his wife over the summer.


  1. Love the comments about your game-haters. What a great outcome for your antepenultimate day! Do you think it was your hooking questions, or the games themselves that won them over? Happy penultimate day, Kelly! The summer break awaits! :)

    1. Hilary, I think it may have been a bit of both. Thanks for the comment! :)

    2. Hilary, I think it may have been a bit of both. Thanks for the comment! :)


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