Great writing begins with a Sizzling Start

All you need to know to start teaching the simplest, easiest and most fun of the Seven Steps – Step 2: Sizzling Starts.
This is the perfect resource to get started with the Seven Steps … so make sure to bookmark this page!

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Your guide to implementing Step 2: Sizzling Starts

We’re excited you’ve joined our Sizzling Starts series. We can’t wait to help you start transforming your students’ writing.

A story has about 60 seconds to grab the reader and make them want to read on. Find out how to start your story with a bang using a range of simple and effective techniques.

Here you’ll find lots of resources – including a training video, activities and writing samples – to help you in the classroom. We’ll start with a quick overview of the Seven Steps.

What are the Seven Steps?

Think of the Seven Steps as the building blocks to great writing. Isolating writing skills into individual steps ensures students don’t get ‘bogged down’ with writing a whole story, recount or persuasive text. Students gain confidence in each building block, then take the next Step and the next. Finally, they put it all together to become creative and engaging writers.

Designed by an author and a former teacher, the Seven Steps program breaks down writing into seven core techniques that can be taught in less than 20 minutes a day. Importantly, you create a vibrant writing classroom and your students’ writing results will rapidly improve!

Are you ready to learn the simplest, easier and most fun Step? Let’s dive in and get your students’ stories starting with a sizzle!

 

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Learn the theory behind  Step 2: Sizzling Starts

Let’s start by learning the key concepts behind Step 2: Sizzling Starts.

This 5-minute video, extracted from a 9-minute video from the Narrative Writing Course in Teacher Hub, identifies some of the critical concepts required to create dynamic and engaging story starts.

Jen, author and creator of the Seven Steps, introduces you to the ‘Moment of Change’ and shares some examples that clearly illustrate the concept in action.

Using Step 2: Sizzling Starts in Narrative Writing

You can see how a Sizzling Start is vital to engage the reader. In books and movies, writers use the opening scene to capture their reader’s attention and in the classroom, these same principles apply. By starting at the ‘Moment of Change’, you can skip the Nullabor Plain of writing that most students start with and jump straight into the action.

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Exemplars

Before and After – Sizzling Starts samples

The best way to learn is by seeing examples, so model how to generate a wide range of ideas and find the most original idea. Demonstrate the power of a Sizzling Start with these exemplars for the three text types:

Text TypeBeforeAfter
Persuasive
Do ghosts exist?
I think ghosts do exist. Once my family were staying in a hotel room and it felt really creepy…Do ghosts exist? I’d never even thought about it until the night we stayed in the Glendowne Hotel.

It had a swimming pool and a large screen TV – and a cold, cold feeling that seeped into you every time you walked into the room.

We cranked the heater up to full, but no hope there. It was only later we found out the mayor of Glendowne had been murdered in the room just two weeks before…

Narrative
The Cranky Tooth Fairy
Once there was a Tooth Fairy with a bad temper. She always went out and…‘Whaaaaat… Is that the fairy?’ the little kid in the bed muttered.

‘No!’ said the Tooth Fairy. ‘Be quiet. And keep your eyes shut or you’ll get no money for your tooth.’

It was her 104th visit for the night and her wings hurt and she was definitely over eager little kids.

Informative
Left handed people
Over 10% of the population are left handed. However, most of the tools in our society are set up for right-handed people.Are you a right-hander? Take this test.

For one day, open every door – the car, classroom, house doors – with your left hand. See how the door swings the ‘wrong’ way? Tomorrow try cutting paper or using a computer mouse. Awkward, right? That’s the world for 10% of us – the left-handers.

Exemplars

Top Sizzling Starts styles

Let’s explore a few different types of Sizzling Starts.

Below are some of the favourite (and easiest) ways to create a Sizzling Start. There are also loads of examples to help showcase them to your students.

After you run through these examples, run the ‘Sizzling Starts Styles Action Activity from the Apply section of this page. You can use the activity in class or give it to your students for homework (trust me they’ll love it – it includes watching TV).

Sizzling Start StyleText ExampleFilm Example
Begin with Action‘Five, four, three, two, ONE! The cameras were rolling and I was about to eat a cockroach.’Angry Birds

Make the Reader Curious‘The beach house was great, but then my cousins arrived with the bacon, the bricks and wearing their usual beanies.’Ratatouille

Dialogue‘It’s just a rat,’ I said, breathing hard.
‘Rats don’t growl,’ said Mike.

Batman Lego Movie

Humour‘Ever cheered for your footy team with a pie in one hand and a drink in the other? Don’t. When that final goal happened, I wore both.’

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Moment of Change

‘All was going well on the hike until the heat wave happened. I was hot and sweaty and dying for a swim. Then I saw the river. And the sign: Warning! Crocodiles.’

Finding Nemo

Looking for more writing samples? Unlock your free 14-day Teacher Hub Trial and get access to hundreds of writing resources in our Resource Library.

How professional authors use Sizzling Starts

Learn how authors Hazel Edwards and Susanne Gervay have used Sizzling Starts in their own work, and how important it is for a piece of narrative writing.

 

 

Looks great in theory right? But how do you get your students to write like this?

Next, we’re going to give you an Action Activity to start transforming your students’ fizzling starts to Sizzling Starts in as little as 20 minutes a day.

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Step 2: Sizzling Starts Action Activities

Now that you know how to explain the Sizzling Starts theory, let’s jump into our most popular Action Activity – ‘The 5 Minute Fast Starts’.
This is one of the best ways to get your students practising the techniques and writing lots!

Action Activity: 5-Minute Fast Starts

  1. Read out one of the topics below and give students 1 minute to write a Sizzling Start.
  2. As soon as the minute is up, read out another topic and start the next minute.
  3. After 5 minutes, each student should have 5 different Sizzling Starts.
  4. Get them to share their favourite in groups of 3–4. This will help them generate more ideas, develop concepts and learn from each other.

Tips:

  • Run this every day for an entire week to solidify it into muscle memory.
  • Don’t worry about neat handwriting or spelling just now. The goal is to capture creative ideas fast!
  • Don’t ask them to share all of the Sizzling Starts they’ve written, or share with the entire class.
  • The idea is to practise, practise, practise. Reading everything out doesn’t give them the opportunity to make mistakes, play around with ideas or try new things that don’t work.

5 Minute Fast Starts Topics

Year LevelNarrativeInformativePersuasive
F-2
  • A day at the beach
  • A dance
  • Lunchtime fun
  • Learning to ride a bike
  • Playing with a pet
  • An interesting animal
  • Lunchtime game rules
  • Something blue
  • How to walk
  • Where to find fruit
  • What makes a good friend?
  • What makes a better pet – cats or dogs?
  • Everyone should learn to…
  • Why my mum and dad are the greatest
  • Lunchtime is too short
3-6
  • Almost getting caught
  • It’s not fair
  • My Grandparents …
  • A holiday that …
  • A fight with my parents
  • Ordering at a restaurant
  • How to dance
  • A theme park
  • Importance of washing your hands
  • UFOs
  • Weekends should be longer
  • Why I should get more pocket money
  • Should parents always tell the truth to their children
  • Mornings are better than evenings
  • If only I had (listened/done) …
7-12
  • My annoying habit I want to change
  • A time I got in trouble
  • The thing I fear most
  • I learn best when
  • A haunting dream
  • The best form of government
  • Cause and effects of air pollution
  • How your belongings are organised in your room
  • Electric cars
  • Why we work
  • The biggest problem in education/our school is …
  • An extra right, kids should have
  • Our government needs to …
  • Are rules always right?
  • I am now old enough to …

Next, discover how you can build on this Action Activity and develop students’ Sizzling Starts even further.

Action Activity: Sizzling Starts Styles

Now that your students have explored how texts use different styles to begin, it’s time to put it into practise.

Go back to Teach: Sizzling Starts Styles

This Action Activity is designed to develop many different styles of writing and can be used for ANY text type.

  1. Choose one of the topics from the table below.
  2. Give students 1 minute to write a Sizzling Start for the Sizzling Starts Style ‘Action’.
  3. As soon as the minute is up, give students 1 minute to write another one for the next Style ‘Intrigue’ using the same topic.
  4. Continue until students have written Sizzling Starts on the same topic for ‘Dialogue’, ‘Humour’ and ‘Moment of Change’.
  5. After 5 minutes, each student should have a Sizzling Start for each style. Ask them to share their favourite in groups.

Topics

Year LevelNarrativeInformativePersuasive
F-2A typical school dayHow to build a sandcastleBlue is the best colour
3-6My secret talentHow to win a fight with mum/dadSchool days should start later
7-12A misunderstandingRules of textingAliens do exist
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Seven Steps assessment templates

After running Step 2: Sizzling Starts Action Activities, use self-assessment templates to help your students evaluate their own progress.

Conference with students to identify whether they have mastered Step 2: Sizzling Starts or whether they need more practice to consolidate their understanding.

Keep scrolling to unlock your free Step 2: Sizzling Starts resources.

Teacher Hub members have access to student self-assessment rubrics resources, marking guides and more. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of Teacher Hub

Step 2: Sizzling Starts activity and assessment pack

      • Step 2: Sizzling Starts Self-Assessment rubric for narrative writing
      • Step 2: Sizzling Starts Self-Assessment rubric for persuasive writing
      • 4 Seven Steps Picture Writing Prompts
      • ‘Special Power’ writing activity template with student samples

Only the beginning

So, there you have it. Sizzling Starts that are exciting and fun for your students to write, share and listen to – and are quick and easy for you to teach, mark and give explicit, actionable feedback that students can implement in their next piece of writing. And they can make a significant difference.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning how quickly you can improve students’ writing. But don’t stop there! Step 2: Sizzling Starts is only the beginning of the transformation. Master the other steps to radically improve your students’ writing and give them the tools to create stories you want to read!