New tricks from an old dog

26th May 2006 at 01:00

Starting a lesson well sets the tone for the rest of the learning activities. Here are some ideas that will get your lessons off to a flying start.

If you take the register before anything else, then use it creatively.

Instead of pupils simply saying "present", get them to give you a piece of information linked to your subject. This is a good way of getting a class focused, and an interesting way to undertake a mundane task. If you write lesson objectives or title on the board, then set it up as a game of hangman. This creates a humorous but engaging way of sharing lesson aims.

Trying to hang the class is always a fun activity.

A simple starter is to show or give out a picture linked to the lesson, and then invite either short written or verbal responses. Pictures are a foolproof way of engaging pupils, as they can't use the excuse of not understanding the words, as there aren't any.

A similar starter is built on homework, when pupils just bring visual materials in for the class to look at. One variation is to set up a blank display sheet on the wall and get pupils to glue their work up as they come into the room. This then gives a collage-type effect to develop the lesson from.

Another good starter is a simple mind map where you write down class responses about what they already know about the subject to be covered.

Even a nil return is good, because at the end of the lesson go back to the mind map and put on, in a different colour, information learned in the lesson. This will allow pupils to see their own knowledge valued (the initial task) as well as see how much they have learned during the lesson.

Write questions or lines of enquiry on pieces of paper and give them out to pupils as they enter the room. This allows them to get down to work immediately, and will allow you to bring the pupils together later in the lesson and share their findings. Likewise, use homework to provide you with a starter. Divide the class in two and give them a separate homework each.

At the start of the next lesson pair the pupils up to share their different homeworks.

Try mysteries too - write down a key fact linked to the lesson and put it into an envelope. Pupils have to guess what the fact is by writing down one guess. You then reveal the fact and reward the pupils who have guessed correctly.

Starters should be snappy, focused and engaging. Try some of the above to lead pupils quickly and effectively to the main part of the lesson.

Roy Watson-Davies is an advanced skills teacher at Blackfen school for girls, in Sidcup, Kent. His books Creative Teaching and Form Tutors Guide are available from

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