Fun with Literary Devices – Opening Hooks

Literary elements for kids - the power of opening hooks

How do we teach our kids to write like their – and our – favourite authors? We can start by playing with some of the literary techniques successful writers use. One example is the opening hook.

C(10) and I learned about opening hooks a few years ago from The Arrow (a Brave Writer language arts program for 8 to 11 year olds).

I thought it might be fun to revisit opening hooks, this time involving J(9).

Setting up

We each brought to the table a pile of our favourite books. I quickly typed and printed a table listing the book titles.

Literary elements for kids - the power of opening hooks
I left space for us to give each opening hook a score out of 10

What we did

We took turns reading the first few lines of our chosen books. After each opening we discussed how effective it was in drawing us in to want to read more.  I like that there are no right answers in this exercise – a nine-year-old’s opinion is as valid as an adult’s.

What kind of books can you use?

I didn’t impose any rules about the type of books the children brought to the table. J(9) listens to lots of good quality audiobooks, but for actual print reading he likes series like Tom Gates and Wimpy Kid. (I’m just happy that he is reading and enjoying books. I know that eventually his visual reading skills will catch up.) Interestingly, we all gave J(9)’s “The Diary of Dennis the Menace” ten out of ten for its opening hook – the only book which received a perfect score from us all:

“This is the WORST day in the history of the universe ever … EVER!!! It’s so horrible I don’t think I can even write it down.”

The Diary of Dennis the Menace

J(9)’s other choices also scored highly. C(10) and I speculated later about how important it is that books for emerging boy readers have effective opening hooks!

Literary elements for kids - the power of opening hooks

Writing our own opening hooks

Next, we all wrote a few of our own opening hooks. Here’s one of C(10)’s:

“Alexander was falling. The wind tore at his hair and clothes and suddenly with a sickening thump he crashed to the ground.”

We played a verbal game of “opening hooks” later, on our dog walk. One person would make up a hook and then everyone took turns to continue the tale. We ended up with some very silly stories!


How does your favourite book begin?


More Brave Writer-inspired language arts posts


I’m appreciatively linking up here:

The Hip Homeschool Hop – Hip Homeschool Moms

The Home Ed Link Up – Adventures in Homeschool

Finishing Strong #35 – Education Possible

Collage Friday – Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up – Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

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23 thoughts on “Fun with Literary Devices – Opening Hooks

  1. As a fellow BW fan, I love how you take her ideas and philosophy and make them your own! This is fabulous! (I’ve been enjoying your blog ever since she featured your poetry tea.)

    As an aside, I’ve been very curious how your Dyson vacuum lab turned out. Are you still planning to post about that?

    1. Hi Katharine, It’s lovely to meet another BW fan. Thank you so much for stopping to say hello in such a kind way!

      Gosh, you’re right! – I never did post about our vacuum cleaner science, did I? We didn’t do much with the actual Dyson pack in the end – we might ask to borrow it again when the children are a bit older. But we did find out a lot about how different types of vacuum cleaners work, and C(10) made a video presentation about everything she learned. Thank you for the reminder – I shall look back at my photos and if I can remember enough I’ll put together a post.

      Isn’t BW fabulous? I feel so appreciative that Julie and her team are around to support me in my homeschooling career.

  2. Great Post! I like how you shared your favorite opening hooks from books first. We’ve also been doing lots of Brave Writer inspired activities too. Today we wrote our own Presidential slogans after reading some from the past. Brave Writer is awesome!

    1. Thanks, Carol. As my children get older, I like these little reminders that they are still actually quite young and that I shouldn’t force the pace too much!

  3. Hello lovely!
    Welcome back, sorry I’ve been a bit scarce! How are you?
    Love that my kids are such avid readers – at times it feels like my only comfort in this homeschooling journey!!
    I need to get into BW some more.
    Am planning to try and work through all your science posts this term, starting with the gummie bear one!
    Love Claire

    1. How lovely to hear from you, Claire! I’m surprisingly well, considering autumn has suddenly arrived here in England. I was looking at spring-like photos on Sue’s blog yesterday and feeling rather envious of you southern-hemispherers. Still, can’t complain – we had a good long run of summer right up til last week.
      Ooh – have fun with the science! And do let me know how you get on. We’re playing with laser pointers at the moment. I can’t decide whether to post about it or whether people will think me very irresponsible.
      How did you get on with the Mandarin??
      Love, Lucinda

  4. We tried your activity today and proved to be a difficult to please crowd! I think a 7 was the highest rating any of us gave a book. Well, except my 6yo who awarded ratings into the millions for his favorites! We also did our weekly Freewrites and I was delighted to see that my boys played around with opening hooks. A couple of them have been writing ongoing sagas for quite sometime. My 15yo turned back to his first installment and came up with several new openings, including our highest ever rating the day: Eight years before Alexander Hendricks had the best day of his life, his father Thomas had the worst day of his life. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I love that your 6yo was so extreme in his appreciation. And I do like your 15yo’s opening – how intriguing, I want to read more!

      It’s so good to hear that your boys are writing sagas. Usually J(9) freewrites alongside C(10) – usually a line or so about our dogs and poop (!), but this week I began freewriting with him while C was at her weekly homeschool group. I’ve been rereading The Writer’s Jungle and I was ready with low expectations which, to my delight, he vastly exceeded! And he continued his “saga” the next day. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  5. Lucinda,

    Imogen and I were talking about hooks in last week’s podcast about writing! We can learn so much from reading successful authors’ writings and observing the techniques they have used. I do that all the time! It sounds like you and C are really enjoying writing together. Will you both be doing NaNoWriMo?

    1. Sue, How funny that you were talking about hooks! I shall look forward to listening. I am so pleased you’ve put your podcasts on iTunes, so I can listen to them offline.

      Yes we are enjoying writing very much lately. Thank you for your encouragement! I think we will both have a go at NaNoWriMo, yes. I was feeling a bit daunted by the idea of writing 50,000 words. But then I realised I could have any number I choose as my goal, and better to write 20,000 than none at all. Now I’m feeling rather excited at the prospect!

  6. I always love seeing what you and your gorgeous kids are up to. It is always something so fun yet there is so much learning going on. You always make me wish Keilee was a bit younger. Keilee has been writing often in her novel. It comes and goes. 🙂

    1. Thanks, I’ll pass on your compliment to C! I love the look of your walks. We have some beautiful countryside around us too, but some grey and damp days when the dogs still need walking it helps to have a fun game to play as we go. 🙂

  7. This was interesting. The kids in CC were just talking about opening hooks as they were working on some literature papers. I love your approach here.

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