Saturday, July 11, 2015

Engaging Introductions: Hook Them with Life Stories!

Your students love you. By January, they know you better than most of your coworkers. They know how to make you smile, laugh, and yell. They know when your glance from across the room means, "I'm just listening in on your conversation, keep going", and when it means, "You have 5 seconds to sit down and stop that". Yet, to them, you're still an enigma. Sure they may have met your spouse or children, but they are aware that they only know the school you and they are craving to know more.

I have found that when I start a lesson with a personal story, they are hooked. I'm talking silent, engaged, and listening. Boy, do they comprehend and retain when you are telling them a story about how you accidentally hit your neighbor's car. They will still be talking about that in June!

Here's how to do it:
-Don't let them know a lesson is starting. Just start with, "Hey guys, you'll never guess what happened yesterday" or "Did I ever tell you about the time..."
-Don't talk to them in teacher talk. Just sit down and have a conversation with them.
-Be ready to go with the actual lesson, they will try to suck you in with questions, comments, and feedback.

Here's how I've done it:

On the first day of our sequencing unit, I sat down in my rocking chair, looked out at all of the faces staring back at me, and nonchalantly said, "Guys... I hit my neighbor's car yesterday." If only you could have seen the excitement on their faces! It was a mix of "Yay! This isn't a lesson", with "Oooohh, Mrs. Wiggins is gonna be in trouble", and little bit of "Finally, juicy gossip!" I dove into this elaborate story about how I was late from work, ran inside to get my dog, came back out to take him to the park, and accidentally backed into my neighbor from across the street's car. I told them how there was no damage and the only person who saw was my next door neighbor who told me I shouldn't even say anything. Then I was forced with the decision of whether or not to do the right thing. I shared how I called my husband and I was nervous to tell him and then I wanted to wait until he got home to say anything but he convinced me to do the right thing right away, so I took my daughter Gracie with me, and on and on the story went. They were enthralled. Right as I was finishing up, who should walk in but my ESOL teacher, what a coincidence... almost as if it were planned. ;) The kids immediately started shouting out, "Mrs. Wiggins hit a car! Her neighbor told her not to tell!" To which she replied, "Whoa, whoa, one at a time. If you guys are going to tell me this story you will have to sequence it so I can understand."



What's sequence?

Finally one kid raised their hand and asked. Once they found out all it was, was putting events in order, all the hands were back in the air. We called on one person at a time to tell one part, in order, until the entire story was told. You better believe they were quick to jump in if someone went out of order and say, "You're not going in sequence, that didn't happen next, you're skipping things, it's not in sequence!" My kids this year remembered what sequencing was more than any other group of kiddos I've had, and of course they never forgot how I messed up and hit a car.

Main Idea:
(Ok, so this story has to do with a car too. I never picked up on the pattern until now...)
When our reading lesson started, I was messing around with the Promethean like I always do and the students were shocked when a picture of a crumpled car appeared. I said, "You'll never believe what happened". By then, all my students were quiet, still, and on the edge of their seat. "Mr. Wiggins got in a car accident", I said. Of course craziness broke out for a couple of seconds, but once I reassured them he was okay, I went back to my hook. I started telling them how we need to buy a new car because the old one was totaled and we had been looking for over a week. I acted frustrated as I told them how Mr. Wiggins wanted a car with tinted windows, shiny rims, built in DVD players, and air conditioned seats. I told the kids how all these things were just details. Tinted windows and rims won't get you to work, a car will. We talked about how the car was the main thing he needed, the most important thing, and everything else was just a detail.

This example actually stuck pretty well for them. Of course they had trouble applying the skill of finding main idea to text, but they could always tell me what it was!

Compare and Contrast:
My students are obsessed with Sophia-Grace (my two-year-old). They love hearing stories about her, they beg me to bring her in, and sheer pandemonium breaks out when my computer wallpaper shows up on the Promethean board and they see the picture of her in the snow. So, I knew she would make for a great hook.

I read my students an article about baby tigers (they love anything with glossy pictures) and then we started talking about the interesting things we learned. At the time, my daughter was 18 months and we had just read some cool things 18 month tiger cubs could do. I pointed this out to my kids and said, "Do you realize I am still cutting up Gracie's chicken nuggets at 18 months while tiger cubs can stalk, catch, and kill their own prey?


They were excited and began telling me other things that Gracie and the tigers did differently. I just so happened to have a cute Gracie video pulled up on my computer and I let them watch her run across a soccer field after a ball. They loved it! I also just happened to have a video of baby tiger cubs playing and running pulled up. We watched that too. They were so enthralled and were coming up with ways Gracie and the tigers were similar and different.

Finally I said, "Whoa, you guys are on fire! We need to write this down! Who can record our thoughts on the Promethean?" I picked a student "randomly" and we had a quick conversation as a class about how we were going to organize our thoughts. Two minutes in, someone came up with a Venn diagram and the ball was rolling.

Hooking your students with personal stories is really win-win. Not only can you ensure that they will be paying attention, but you will be building relationships as well. There aren't many things you can do to build relationships with every student in your class at once, but this sure works.

Do I always tell the truth? No. I'll admit it. Sometimes I fudge stories or steal a friend's story to make a point, but that's okay, we both enjoy it. Is this something that you've tried in your classroom? Leave me a comment to let me know! I'm always looking for more ideas!

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous post! I do share personal stories as examples sometimes, but not as intentionally and skillfully as you do! You've given me a lot o think about. Thanks!
    Laughter and Consistency