Thursday, September 11, 2014

Better Writing with Hook Books!

I saw a dog. He was brown. He was cute. I liked him.

Do your students write simple sentences like these? As a special education teacher, I had trouble getting my kids to write more complex and interesting sentences…until a teacher friend told me about hook books. (Thanks, Carol!) I don’t know where the method originated. I’d love to give credit to whoever thought it up as it was quite effective! (And I'd like to know why they're called "hook books." Were the originals hung from hooks? Did they get the name because they "hook" kids on better writing?) Here’s how it works:

Day One: Write a simple and boring sentence on the board or overhead. Then have students come up with adjectives to add to the sentence. (You may have to explain what adjectives are and adjust the number to the ability of your students) Encourage a variety of adjectives. (“We already have a color word. Can you think of another word to describe _______?” After the list of adjectives is finished, choose one and rewrite the sentence. You’ll end up with something like this:
I saw a dog. (original sentence)
1. brown
2. spotted
3. gigantic
4. scary
I saw a spotted dog.
Have each student copy the above in a notebook designated as a “hook book.” For the sentence, have them choose a different adjective from the list than the one you chose.

Day Two: Put yesterday’s transformed sentence back on the board. Now have students think of more interesting verbs to replace the one in the sentence. (Explain/model as needed.) Choose a verb to further transform the sentence. Students copy it all into their “hook books,” except they transform their own sentences from yesterday. (Again, encourage variety. “’Brushed’ is a good verb, but since we already have ‘combed’ on the list, can you think of another word?”) You’ll have something like this:
I saw a spotted dog.
1. chased
2. combed
3. walked
4. rescued
I rescued a spotted dog.
Day Three: Now you move on to prepositional phrases. If your students don’t know prepositions, post a list, and give examples of prepositional phrases to get them going. As before, students copy from the board but transform their own sentences from yesterday.
I rescued a spotted dog.
Prepositional phrases:
1. from the pound
2. with my grandfather’s help
3. on my birthday
4. in a terrible storm
I rescued a spotted dog from the pound.

Day Four: Each student goes to a fresh page in his/her hook book, indents, copies over his/her last, transformed sentence, and uses it as the first sentence of a paragraph or longer story. (You adjust according to students’ needs.)

Day Five: Students help each other edit their stories. (Or on Day Four, you can check and mark their stories or conference with them individually.) Then each makes a good copy of his/her story with an illustration if desired.

This activity only takes a few minutes each day, especially after you’ve done it several times. Kids begin to understand parts of speech and sentence structure, and you can refer to this activity to get them to write better sentences at other times. (“How about adding an adjective?" "Can you come up with a more interesting verb?" "Please add a prepositional phrase.”) Gradually you can require students to do more of the activity on their own. Eventually you can just supply the stimulus sentence, and the hook book can be a daily, independent activity!

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