Write About It Wednesday - Great Beginnings!

It's time for the Write About It Wednesday linky with Halle from Across the Hall in 2nd! Isn't she the sweetest?? I loved her idea about stretching sentences from last week!

Today the topic for the posts and linky is: Hooks & Leads!

In my class, I call these 'Great Beginnings'.

Once upon a time, I taught second grade and many students had no idea how to start their narratives!

In short -- they were bo-ring. And I kept seeing the same. exact. boring. things.

Um, once upon a time this story wouldn't grab my attention.

Doppler radar alert!! Changing the weather does not an interesting beginning make...

Whoa Nelly! Since when do we need a play-by-play account of your entire morning??

At least this one's direct!

As you can see -- and maybe do see in your own room -- second graders often lack the gusto needed to really make a narrative really grab the reader's attention.  They simply don't know where to start!

This is a really engaging lesson that will get your kiddos up and moving -- and discussing what it feels like to be a reader when the story beginning isn't so great.

Step 1: Place the awful no-so-great beginnings around the room. (There are six story beginnings).  I always say they are my stories. "I wrote some stories over the summer and I'm hoping you can help me make them more interesting.  Read through the beginnings of my stories and tell me what you think."

Your students might be afraid to say these aren't so great... You may have to do some questioning, coaxing, and acting to get them to realize admit they're awful. My second graders are always afraid to tell me my stories aren't so great in the beginning of the year! By now they know my antics and don't hold back. (Click the image for the stories and directions! Graphics courtesy of Scrappin' Doodles.)

Graphics by Scrappin' Doodles
Step 2: After the students have discussed the stories (perhaps you've rotated them with a signal), gather the students and discuss what they thought.  Read each story out loud and allow them to really experience how boring these beginnings are.

Step 3: Introduce 'Great Beginnings' -- explain that we use Great Beginnings so that readers actually want to read our writing!

Step 4: Create an anchor chart, one Great Beginning at a time. 

Each time you introduce one, read a short excerpt from one of the supporting mentor texts.

I like to introduce them all at once. It's really powerful for the students to have a menu of choices from the start.  (If you're short on time, you could do the activity the first day and the introduction of beginnings the next.)

Finally they practice! This is what the students do in Writing Workshop for about two days. I give a small prompt -- any narrative prompt will do! I usually go with something like:

"Write about a time you went on a roller coaster." 
"Write about a time you went to the beach."

I make sure that there is enough 'meat' in the prompt to support at least a few of the possible great beginnings. 

But! Students only write the Great Beginning.  They don't write a whole story yet.  The purpose is for them to practice writing a Great Beginning in isolation.

I encourage students to write more than one -- "Already used dialogue? Try a sound effect!"

This gets them thinking flexibly about their options as a writer.  As they write, I walk around and read samples of writing that are using a Great Beginning well.  I give lots of praise!

How do you teach hooks and leads? What are your favorite mentor texts for your lessons?

We'd love to know, so please link up and share! And don't forget to visit Halle and see her lesson for hooks/leads!

Rules for the linky:

1. Post about a lesson, idea, or strategy for teaching hooks/leads
2. Make sure to include the 'Write About It Wednesday' graphic in the post
3. Make sure to link back to this post on your blog post
4. Come back here and link up with the actual blog post -- not your general blog address!

Thanks for visiting Write About It Wednesday! :) Hope you can use this lesson!


  1. Thanks for sharing your ideas and this resources. One year I had to outlaw the beginning "One day" or any variation of it. It is right up there with "So then..." as a pet peeve of mine.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  2. Wow! Great Minds think alike, huh?! Great post!

    Across the Hall in 2nd Grade

  3. I am LOVING these posts!! You guys are awesome for doing a little series on writing..something my students seriously struggle with! Thanks for the great ideas.. I can't wait to read more!

    That's So Second Grade

  4. OMG Kate I love this idea! I get so sick of reading the boring intros!
    Third Grade Tidbits

  5. Wohoo! I'm so happy you two are sharing your writing lessons! Thanks and thanks in advance:-)

  6. I am new to primary - so your posts are my life savers! LOVE these ideas. I will so rock next year!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas, you helped breath life into my writing lesson!


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