Back in 2015 when I’d just stopped teaching, I shared a post with a some ideas for lesson starters, and people just keep coming back to this post! I know I really struggled coming up with ideas for lesson starters when I first took on my teaching job – especially as I launched straight into it in September with no training beforehand – so I know how tricky it can be to come up with something that kicks off your lesson plan to a great start, grabbing your pupils’ attention, encouraging their interest in the topic you’re about to cover, and motivating them to stay engaged throughout the lesson. So I decided I’d share some more from my old folder of tricks – they might as well come to some good use for someone else now I’m not using them!
What is a lesson starter?
A lesson starter is a 5 minute activity that should be built into your lesson plan that ties into the topic you’re about to cover where possible or covers something from your previous lesson. This gets pupils excited for what they’re about to learn and interacting with you or one another. If you can make it fun and interesting, all the better!
Create a slide that features a series of abstract images or words that give you a phrase relating to your topic, then give the kids 2 minutes to figure them out before discussing the answers. They can either work alone or in partners/groups depending on how difficult you make them. This is one that really gets their brains working, and some pupils get very competitive over working them out first! For example:
LANG4UAGE Answer: Foreign language
EEEEEEEEEEC Answer: Tennessee
Label each corner with answers, then pose a question on the topic you covered last lesson. Pupils have 10 seconds to pick the correct corner and move to it. You can then discuss why they’ve picked the corners they have until they all agree on the correct answer. Repeat this as many times as you like!
Get the pupils to work in partners and take turns posing a series of questions to each other that you list on the board – either relating to the topic you covered last lesson, or relating to what you’re about to cover. The latter will encourage them to think sensibly about what they think would follow on from what they’ve been learning and outside the box.
You can do this in a few different ways – either show pupils a slide with 10 or so (depending on the age of the class) images relating to the topic or show them physical items, then cover them up and get them to list everything they saw. Alternatively, you could remove one or two images or items and get them to figure out what’s missing.
5. List It
Give kids 30 seconds to write a list of everything they can remember from the previous lesson – whether that’s phrases, words, images.
6. 20 Questions
Give a student a topic or word from the previous lesson, then get the rest of the class to take it in turns to ask a question that can only have a “Yes” or “No” answer until they figure out what the topic or word they’re holding in their brain is.
7. Just A Minute
Line up your students then start a timer. The one at the front has to talk about the topic from last lesson without any hesitations, pauses or repeats for as long as possible. If they hesitate, pause or repeat, the rest of the class calls out “Hesitation!” etc. and the next person in line is up until the 1 minute timer runs out.
8. Justify It
Give your students a ridiculous phrase that ties in to the previous lesson then ask them to justify it. This will allow them to practise their debating skills over something that doesn’t really matter, but gets them thinking about what they’ve already learned too.
9. Odd One Out
Give the class a series of images or words relating to the topic you’re studying and ask them to pick which is the odd one out and why. This can be done by themselves, in partners or in groups to lead to discussion.
Give each student a word relating to the previous lesson and get them to describe it to the class without saying the word itself, until someone is able to correctly guess what the word is.
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