Lesson ‘hooks’


Learning and information processing are strongly influenced by emotion, and heightened responses to stimuli play an important role in the classroom (Pintrich, 2003). As such, engaging pupils’ interest through what is termed ‘disruptive pedagogy’ (McCauley et al., 2015), be it an emotional trigger, critical question or connection to prior knowledge, can effectively clear the way for engaged learning.

A “hook” is defined as ‘a short introductory pedagogical moment that captures what is interesting about the material to be covered and puts it out in front’ (Lemov, 2010). While hooks may well be as simple as a photograph, short story or video clip, they are strategic teaching tools that engage learners immediately. Moreover, they provide an opportunity at the start of each lesson to remind pupils of classroom expectations and routine, take the register, and account for any absentees (Morrison McGill, 2017).

Below are some simple strategies for lesson hooks:

  • Help pupils to retain and retrieve prior knowledge by displaying true/false statements or short/multiple-choice questions and asking them to answer on mini whiteboards or by using Plickers.

do now

  • Use Socrative or Kahoot to prepare a fun quiz.
  • ‘Original Kahoot.’
  • ‘Talk like an expert’ – pupils in teams or pairs are given three minutes to prepare an answer to an extended question then one minute to present. They are awarded points for every keyword they include and double points for the ‘golden words.’

talk like an expert

  • Play a song relating to the lesson as the pupils arrive.
  • Display multiple choice questions around the room. Give the pupils a time limit (these classroom timers are fun) and get them to move around the room looking for and answering the questions.
  • In science, start the lesson with a fun or even explosive demonstration which ties in to the main body of the lesson. Sick Science has lots of great ideas.
  • Pass around mystery objects inside sealed bags. Ask the pupils to guess what they are and what they do.
  • Display apparatus, interesting objects and photographs around the room.
  • Play a short video on a loop and hand out questions about its content. This is even better if it is a video that you or the pupils have made. For example, a time-lapse video to recap the previous lesson or the steps of a practical investigation presented in Adobe Spark.
  • Display a recent (relevant) news story and ask pupils to discuss/share their views.
  • Write a true / false question or a statement on the board. As pupils arrive ask them to choose whether they think it is ‘true’ or ‘false’ or whether they ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ and to stand to one side or another of an imaginary line down the middle of the room.
  • ‘Starter for 10’ – pupils spin the wheel to choose a past topic and are given a short 10 question quiz. The random topic picker is available from ClassTools.net.


  • Display a picture and a question. Alternatively, you can display a number of different pictures related to a theme and simply ask ‘What have I Googled?’


  • Play ‘Backs to the Board.’ Divide your pupils into two or three teams. One volunteer from each team sits in a chair with their backs to the board, facing their friends. Write a key word on the board, making sure that the players in the ‘hot seats’ can not see it. After you say ‘Go!’, the members of each team must try to elicit the word from the volunteer without saying the word or giving any clues as to its spelling. The players in the ‘hot seats’ then swap with another member of their respective teams.
  • Keyword dominoes.
  • Arrange for a guest speaker to be standing in the room as the pupils arrive.
  • Set up apparatus or equipment for the lesson and display one or more questions about what it might be for and how it works. Alternatively, hide the apparatus under a cloth and, before revealing it, ask questions about what it might be.
  • Keyword bingo.
  • When they arrive, hand each pupil or pair of pupils a mystery object and ask them to come up with ideas about what it might be used for.
  • ‘Find and fix’

Find and fix

Find and fix

  • Hand each pupil a question or an answer to a question and ask them to find their pair.
  • Play the ‘Who Am I?’ game but instead of a famous person designate each pupil a key word relating to the current topic. Remember, participants can only use ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ questions to work out who or what they are.
  • Starter tickets. There are lots of excellent ideas for starter tickets (and exit tickets) on Kate Jones’ (Brighton College Al Ain) blog.

starter tickets

References and further reading

Lemov, D. (2010) Teach Like a Champion. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley & Sons.

McCauley, V., Davison, K., and Byrne, C. (2015) ‘Collaborative lesson hook design in science teacher education’. Irish Educational Studies 34 (4), pp. 120-131.

Morrison McGill, R. (2017) Mark, Plan, Teach. London: Bloomsbury.

Pintrich, P.R. (2003) ‘A motivational science perspective on the role of student motivation in learning and teaching contexts.’ Journal of Educational Psychology 95 (1), pp. 667-686.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s