Proposal Elements: Bridging the Gap - Hooks

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A good hook grabs the learner's interest and helps define the roles the student will take during the engaged learning experience: explorer, cognitive apprentice, teacher, and producer. It is tied closely with an authentic task and deals with an issue affecting the students' lives. A good strategy to use in determining if a hook is an effective one is to ask yourself, "Why would the student want to do this task?"

To help you in identifying and creating a hook for your project, look at the following examples. Examples of poorly formed hooks are shown on the left. On the right are examples of well-formed hooks. Read through them and see if you can determine why each poorly written item is just that, "poorly written" or "poorly developed." Following the table you will see some reasons listed why the item(s) may deserve a "poor" rating. But remember: these are just some of the more common reasons. You may come up with many other reasons why the item is poor and ways to transform it into a good element for use within an engaged learning proposal.

Hooks: Bridging the Gap

 Poorly Written
 Well Written
1-a) Students participate in experiments to determine water quality of a package of samples from a science education company. They get to see chemical reactions taking place. 1-b) Students investigate the tap water within the local community (including family and friends) for evidence of lead and report back to the city council with the results gathered by their team.
2-a) The teacher shows students new equipment that has been purchased for the school (scanner, digital camera, etc.) She/he tells them that they are going to make multimedia presentations so they can learn how to use the equipment. 2-b) A member of the Community Improvement Association contacts the class to create promotional materials for their community, which is in declining economic condition, in an effort to promote the local community, encourage tourism, and stem the tide of people moving away.
3-a) As part of their curriculum in construction, students are given a blueprint for a house and spend the semester building the house from these blueprints. 3-b) A referendum has been passed within your district which will provide funding for the addition of a greenhouse to expand the science facilities of the high school. The school board approaches the students in the science classes and the construction classes to act as the consultants and contractors for the project.
If you would like to see the final versions of these hooks, you can view them on:
Sample Project Hooks: Hooking the Students into the Projects.
This page also contains links from the hooks to the corresponding projects.


1-a) The question arises, "Why do they care about observing chemical reactions taking place?" Doing an experiment is not enough of a hook unless it is tied to an authentic task.

2-a) Here, the writer has falsely assumed that because the students will get to work with neat, new equipment, they will want to learn and participate. Technology for technology's sake is not enough of a hook.

3-a) Although building a house sounds like fun, it will not keep the students' interest for long if they have no ownership and see no reason behind what they are doing.

Now you are ready to test your skill as a writer of an engaged learning hook. Look at the following hooks and decide if they are poorly written or well written. Be prepared to answer, "Why?" or "Why not?" If your answer is a "thumbs-down," try to rewrite the hook into a form that would receive a "thumbs-up."

Hooks - Thumbs-Up or Thumbs-Down

1) To give the students a change of pace from the everyday classroom, a math teacher has the students draw names of famous mathematicians from a hat. The class then gets to go to the computer lab and research their mathematician on the Internet, write a biographical sketch on their person and read their report to the class.
2) The social studies teacher gives the class the assignment of creating a newspaper to reflect a "slice of life" from the middle ages. Students use the Internet and the resources within their learning center to gather information to include in their finished newspaper.
3) In a unit on butterfly migration, the fourth grade class of an urban school plants a butterfly garden in order to attract butterflies to their schoolyard. However, after the first planting fails to come up, they replant their garden. Again, nothing will grow. "Why?" they begin to wonder. They form teams to investigate the possible causes for the infertile soil.

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