Just about every teacher has been there. You are starting a new lesson or new subject with your class. And while you are excited about the journey your students are about to take, they may be considerably less so. Instead of diving right into a lesson, a great introductory strategy may be needed to engage students and maximize learning.
A “hook” is a short introduction to a lesson topic—an attempt to capture what is relevant and interesting about it. The aim of a hook is to get students interested and eager to learn more about that topic. Usually performed at the beginning of a lesson, a hook can be used more than once and at various points throughout a topic. In addition to getting students excited about the subject at hand, hooks can also be used to connect new content to something students already know or are familiar with.
And much like fishing hooks, instructional hooks can come in many different forms: Videos, physical props, storytelling, role playing, and kinesthetic movement are but a few examples of what an effective hook may look like.
Even “cooler” subjects like biotechnology can benefit from effective strategies to hook learners. Here are a few examples. Tying in everyday activities like food and eating is a sure-fire hook to use for biotechnology students. For example, the story of ancient cultures—such as the Sumerians using techniques similar to modern-day biotech to produce consumables including beer, cheese, bread, and yogurt—connects students in a tangible way with things that people eat and drink every day. Using a more modern example, Episode 210 of the podcast Talking Biotech focuses on biotech-derived plant-based meat alternatives, such as the Impossible Burger. Hooking students using this particular subject could be as simple as playing a segment of this podcast to start an introductory class discussion or as involved as having students engage in a blind taste test of meat and meatless burgers. Lesson hooks can prove to not only be memorable but quite tasty as well.
Relating portions of the ABE Foundations of Biotech labs to a well-known disease such as cancer is a way to hook students with a familiar topic that most of us have previous knowledge of or experience with. While biotech has contributed to advancements in cancer research leading to higher survival rates, the disease’s effects on such a large percentage of the world’s population make it an important topic to broach with all secondary school students. Introductory readings such as The Harvard Gazette’s “Killing Cancer with Cancer” exposes students to cutting-edge research, such as gene editing tools like CRISPR. Another effective hook that would use peer collaboration and smartphone technology would be for students to record and share a short video describing what they know about cancer or how the disease has affected them or their family directly. By doing this, students activate prior knowledge on the topic while also anchoring the lesson to personalize experiences.
Here are a few resources to inspire and help develop lesson hooks in your classroom:
- “9 Lesson Hook Strategies to Launch Learning”
- “Hooked on Science”
- “Stimulating Curiosity Using Hooks”
- “Captain of a Hook: 10 Engaging Lesson Introduction Ideas”
If YOU have any unique hooks for your biotech lessons, let us know! You can tweet them to @ABEProgOffice or email us!