Lesson plan

Ideas and Hooks: Personal Narrative

This lesson walks students through the first few steps of crafting a personal narrative. Writers will start by going through a process to select an idea to write about, then begin to craft a hook that invites readers into their story.
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Students will be able to identify a topic for a personal narrative and experiment with different hooks for their piece.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students how they choose what to read when it’s time for a new book. Take suggestions from the class.
  • If it hasn’t arisen in the discussion, tell them that oftentimes readers select books based on the story idea.
  • Ask students how they find out what the story idea is for a particular book. Share responses. Make clear that ideas are on the back of the book or the inside cover. If searching online, they are in the publisher’s summary.
  • Explain that story ideas should be interesting — and that as a writer, you want to select an idea that you can retell, with lots of emotion and imagery to pull the reader into the story.
  • Inform students that today they will be selecting an idea for a personal narrative and crafting a hook.
(10 minutes)
  • Find a story with a great hook. Rewrite the hook so that it is very boring, such as, “My name is (insert name here) and I live in house. I have a family and go to school”.
  • Explain to your students that you are going to play a game, sort of like "American Idol." You are going to provide two “contestants,” or hooks, and they are going to judge which one is better and why.
  • Discuss the criteria for a good hook — how will they be evaluating the hooks or contestants?
  • Read the boring version of the story hook to your students and have them give their assessment, calling on students who want to act as judges.
  • Read the original version of the hook and ask for students to comment as judges.
(20 minutes)
  • Explain that there are different strategies that authors use to draw readers into texts. For example, written works can start with a quotation, a belief, a bold statement, an anecdote, an interesting fact, or a question.
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to examine hooks used in the texts in your classroom.
  • Give groups 10 minutes to examine texts and have them choose their favorite.
  • Have groups share their favorites with the class and state why they selected it.
  • As groups share, try to identify some of the strategies that the authors used and generate a class list.
(25 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Great Writing Starts with Golden Ideas. Walk students through the instructions and then have them generate an initial idea bank.
  • Ask students to work independently to select one idea from their bank, then create an idea map to help identify details and emotions from the experience they have chosen to write about.
  • Students should then craft two to three different hooks for their personal narrative using the strategies they discovered. (Have students refer to the list from the previous exercise.)
  • Support: Distribute the Hook Your Reader! worksheet. Walk students through the instructions, explaining how they will select three texts and analyze the strengths and strategies used in each example.

  • Enrichment: Have students research more texts and generate a master list of hook-writing strategies to hang in the classroom for future reference.
(10 minutes)
  • Give students a hypothetical story idea, such as hitting the game-winning home run, or breaking an arm falling off of a horse.
  • Have students select one of the strategies and work with a partner to craft a hook for the story. Have pairs share out their hook ideas.
(5 minutes)
  • Discuss: Is writing a good hook an art or a science? In other words, is creating a good hook more like following recipe, or does it involve elements of style, craft, and emotion?

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