Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Grabbing Their Attention

grabbingFirst lines are important.

I recently read What's in a Name? from Sioux's Page by Sioux,

“I always look at the first line of a book before I buy it. Sometimes it doesn't immediately hook me, but if I already love the author, I'm willing to go on the journey anyway. Most of the time, however, if I make the purchase, it's because that initial line sends me off into a much-desired direction, or it intrigues me to the point that I must know where it leads...”

I remember growing up hearing the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That is a good saying but how many of us still do that. I tend to be attracted to a book that has an interesting cover over a blank cover with just the title. Okay, if I get past the cover, I glance at the book jacket and read a description of the story. If the description doesn’t grab me, I usually don’t waste time reading the book even if it probably is a great book. If there is no description of the book, I glance at the first sentence and hope that it will grab me. Those three steps are important to me when I’m making choices.

I began to wonder about my first sentences that I use when I’m writing, giving a presentation, or teaching a lesson. I realized that many times I do the same thing when I read posts in my Google reader. I skim through the first lines and if the title or first line doesn’t grab me, I tend to move on.

In today’s busy times, most people don’t have time to wade through fluff to find out the important information they are looking for. When I write in my blog, I need to make sure that I don’t fill it with fluff and I need to grab their attention right from the beginning. If every post I write doesn’t grab people, no one will want to come read what I have written. I hope that I write enough to make people want to come back for future readings.

The same rule applies to giving presentations to my colleagues. I have been to the same boring presentations where they speak in monotone and read the bullets off the PowerPoint presentation. The first way to grab people is the write up about the presentation. When people have a choice as to what sessions to go to, the write up needs to make them interested in finding out more. If the write up is boring, people tend to assume that the presentation will match.

Again, this applies to teaching. Students feel as if their lives are slipping away and they don’t want to waste a minute of it. I want them to feel like the time put into this lesson is not wasted. First I need to grab their attention and make them want to know more. The first thing I say about this lesson can determine how the students will react to the entire lesson. If they start off being bored, they will shut down their minds and I am basically wasting my time. If I can grab their interest right from the beginning, they may be more willing to endure the so called boring parts that are necessary. As a teacher, I find that I tend to feed off their interest too. If they are bored, then I struggle to keep them on task and the whole lesson is miserable for all of us. But if I get them interested, it motivates me to make it even more interesting and enjoyable for them which makes this better for all of us.

I almost feel that should be an important step in writing lesson plans. There should be a question that every teacher needs to ask themselves such as, “What is your grabbing first statement about this lesson?” Time should be spent thinking about this because it is so important but I’m not sure I ever spent enough time doing this. If I go back to the lessons that flopped or just didn’t go as well as I expected, I bet I could find that many of the lessons didn’t have a grabbing first line.

Do you do this with your lessons? How much time do you spend doing this? How do you make sure that you don’t forget this? What do you do to develop your grabbing first line? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: '9: Lack of support keeps dragging' by: sascha


Sioux said...

I try to begin with some humor, or something that will lead to humor. For example, we were reviewing "likely/unlikely/certain/impossible." I asked a series of questions of the whole class (which gets everyone engaged, because everyone gets to participate) such as, "If you don't do your homework, what is the probability you will have to miss recess the next day? What is the probability that a lion will eat your homework? If Justin Bieber walked into our classroom, what is the probability that there will be screaming and shrieking involved?" I agree. It's important to get them hooked and keep them hooked...

(And thanks for the link.)

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux I like these examples! I bet your students really like your sense of humor! Thanks for the comment!

Mr. David T. Miller said...

I agree about the importance of how a teacher opens their lesson. I am not sure it has to be a line though. I think it can be a visual aid, picture, or something a teacher can even just silently start a video and the students will almost immediately quiet down and start watching. I blogged a similar post a few weeks ago.

Staging your classroom with interest

loonyhiker said...

@David You are so right! It doesn't have to be a line. Thanks for the reminder and the suggestions. I enjoyed reading your blog post and thought it had great suggestions!

Online Ged said...

So nice and interesting blog..I really enjoyed to read it..