Slice of Life Story - Grabber Leads!

It is always gratifying to observe a group of students make a genuine breakthrough in their learning. Today I watched a group of young writers grapple with the challenge of writing 'grabber' leads. Their teacher urged them to write leads that aroused curiosity and interest. To scaffold the learning the teacher had provided powerful modelling of her own by using Aimee Buckner's 'Try Ten' strategy from the book, 'Notebook Know How -Stragies for the Writer's Notebook'

This strategy involves writing ten different leads to a writing piece before choosing one with which to run. The teacher chose as her topic the recent devastating fires that had afflicted so many lives in Victoria, Australia. She wrote from first hand experience given that the fires had come so close to her home.

The power of this modelling proved compelling. Her grade three students when asked to produce five lead samples embraced the challenge with a zeal that was not present in their writing a matter of weeks before. They had initially produced basic recounts that were generally list like and began with basic statements such as "One day" or "On the weekend"

The change lies in the teacher's willingness to be a risk taker and try to lead by example. Writing for and with her students, guiding and leading the way forward has proved to be the catylyst for change. Using the writing of her students to guide her instruction, and allowing herself to be informed by what her students are producing has provided the impetus for developing the writing. The last few weeks have been about generating content, experimenting, and building confidence. As they have written, she has taught into the language generated.

Today provided a watershed moment. During the share time, at the conclusion of the workshop, students read examples of their 'grabber leads.' It was immediately evident that they understood the importance of using words to engage the reader. Their writing showed the value of their teacher's investment. One girl wrote, "How could I tell Dad that I was scared and didn't want to do it?" She had managed to arouse interest and tease the reader just enough to want to read on. Many of her fellow writers had achieved exactly the same level of reader interest. Their notebooks were filled with possibilities.

What a buzz! My heart sang for these young writers and their teacher. Great leads had come from her great lead.


  1. Alan, this is great! I am a firm believer in doing the work we expect our students to do. No matter what the age of the students, it creates a much different learning environment and learning experience if we work along with them. I love the grabber lead example from the student. I certainly wanted to keep reading her story!

  2. Watershed moments are what we live for, right? I loved your look inside this classroom and all that was going on.

  3. My students really get writing leads-- it's simple and seems manageable, but it teaches them an important lesson about revision.


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