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Teaching writing: The power of a hook

  • by: Sam Bryan and Joseph Parsonage
  • On: 10, Sep 2020
30 min read

Purposeful creativity in the classroom has the power to ignite young minds and imaginations.

Using incredible props to engage children in their learning can transport children to extraordinary times, such as when magnificent dinosaurs roamed the earth or magical dragons swarmed the skies. As teachers, we all know the huge benefits of a powerful hook in to the lesson. There is nothing worse than looking across your classroom and seeing boredom seep through the faces of the children you teach, at 9 am on a Monday morning. However, the minute you mention that you need their help or bring a hook into the discussion, their faces glow with excitement and interest. This is the moment that they are listening and therefore engaged, willing to learn and explore their creative minds.

As teachers, could you imagine a day when you do not use some sort of hook to engage your children? We are not talking about the extravagant Victorian Day or the day a dinosaur stomps through the door, but the everyday conversations that help in creating purpose and engagement to your lesson. Everything we do in the classroom is designed to engage and motivate children, if it isn't then what is the point of us being there? We all know that children who are interested in their learning experiences have a far better chance of producing higher quality work than if they are disengaged and bored.

Creating new characters
One way of fuelling the minds of the children you teach is through creating characters. When reading this you may be thinking, ‘I do this anyway’ but we’re not stating that we’ve discovered a new technique that will lead you to internal bliss in the classroom, more of a reminder of how effective and memorable this can be for children. Taking the time to introduce a character to the classroom and give them a personality is a wonderful tool in getting the very best out of the children you teach, as you are creating an emotional attachment.

When is too old? 
This is also not just a target for KS1 children, of course, the delight and pleasure of sending a teddy home with a class of Year 1 children can not be ignored. However, what about the Year 6 children you teach? Are your children too old to be sent home with a memorable prop such as a class teddy? Do you class an eleven-year-old as an adult or someone who is too old for certain experiences? We hear it all too much, ‘my Year 6’s are too old for this but are they and are they making that decision or are you? Writing this as a Year 6 teacher, I have experienced first hand the sheer excitement and delight (guaranteed this delight can be muted in front of their peers) of when they are sent home with something memorable to look after, or when a dinosaur with visible legs stomps through their door and a dragon visits their assembly hall for a Creative Writing hook.

One memory springs to mind, when we were teaching at Langley Primary School in Croydon. We were teaching Science through the help of our 4 metre by 2 metre dinosaur and with the use of one of our baby dinosaur puppets (which is usually part of our EYFS workshops). It must be noted that standing in front of 360 KS2 children at the closing assembly, we were reluctant to get the baby dinosaur out with the fear at being laughed at. However, with the encouragement of Debbie Lewis, the Deputy Head, she wanted the older children to experience this. Notably, this atmosphere had been instilled in the school's environment for many years. We are so glad we did what we did as it has changed our perspective from that day on and hopefully when reading this it will change yours too! From hearing the discussions in the corridors amongst Upper Key Stage Two children, who were explaining to their peers that the large prop with the visible legs was definitely not real but the little baby puppet most certainly was! This reaffirmed to us that primary school children of all ages are just that, children. Even when their instinct tells them that something cannot be real and even if deep down they know it is not, the inquisitive questioning around ‘how, why and what’ is at the forefront of their unbelievable minds.

This is a conversation that we hear all too much on the road with Teach Rex. A conversation that still fills us with joy and genuine emotion about just how innocent and incredible children's imaginations are. If nothing else, the debate begins as to whether the props are real or not, the inquisitive questions that still remain. The questions, that we as teachers, must continue to promote in order to develop the young and brilliant minds of tomorrow.

Time to revisit an old friend?
If nothing else, we hope that this blog has made you think that maybe that old puppet in the cupboard can make an appearance this year. If that little dog in your cupboard can make a long term memory for that one individual is it not all worth it? So moving forwards, spend time on creating these hooks that will encourage learning from your children. But most of all use these hooks so that the pupils in your class can be children and use their imaginations to lead the way in their learning. Continue to make a difference and do the fabulous job that you do, with purpose and enthusiasm.

Sam Bryan and Joseph Parsonage are two primary school teachers who created 'Teach Rex' to inspire and motivate children to develop a love of writing through engaging in-school workshops. Their sessions transport children to a world of dinosaurs and dragons, enabling pupils to experience something truly magical. Their newest experience, Gorillas-Our World’, brings the rainforest to school and immerses children in the world around them.
Find out more about Teach Rex. 

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