Mont Pleasant Middle School teacher Sarah Trombadore asked the question: “What do you get when you combine two boys, two golf clubs, one dog and a coop full of chickens?”
The answer: “a really angry man.”
People would be more likely to read the rest of that story with such an intriguing beginning — a great “hook,” Trambodore said.
“The hook must catch like a fish or grab the readers’ attention to make them want to read the article,” she said.
Seventh-grade English students have been learning about feature writing in their classes. During the unit, which will run about four to six weeks, they are writing ideas in their composition notebooks, interviewing each other and writing an outline. Next, they will write a rough draft and then the final draft.
Trombadore used as an example an article about Claressa Shields of Michigan, who became the first female American boxer to win a gold medal at the London Olympics. Leading with description about her fight is a lot better than saying “This is an article about Claressa Shields.”
Isaiah Smith, 12, also tried a question-and-answer approach in the introduction to his article.
“What do you get when you mix a card with money on it and a teenager? You get a crazy kid,” he said.
Trombadore said other methods to start the story are with vivid sounds or imagery or a strong opinion.
“Feathers floated past the windows as screams of terrified chickens filled the air,” she said, giving an example.
Isaiah’s partner, 12-year-old Michael Sukhraj, was crafting his article about what Isaiah didn’t like about school. Trombadore told him to use the image of the school building in his introduction.
“You can make a clear little mini-video in your mind about this little boy standing in front of this gigantic building,” she said.
She also said people shouldn’t bury their most important information, telling another student to move up one of the lines to be the hook.
“You’ve written it. You’ve just put it down in the third line,” she said.
Telesha Dinnanauth, 12, came up with a strong hook for her article: “Think if your mom ever forgot your birthday,” she wrote.
Students seem to like getting the chance to learn more about each other and improve their writing skills.
“It teaches you how to write more, more details,” Michael said.
Trombadore said she loves teaching persuasive writing, which she had to do a lot of in her previous career as a lawyer. The idea for the feature writing unit came about because the English department decided to revamp its curriculum. The new Common Core standards and the state English tests will be emphasizing students’ ability to read nonfiction documents, interpret them and use them in their writing.
Teachers used to focus on a “personal narrative,” in which students would write stories about their lives. This year, they decided to mix it up a little bit and have them interview each other. That way, they get to learn about asking questions, taking notes and using that material to construct their article.
“They’re still telling a narrative. They have to make a story with a beginning, middle and end,” she said.