Toolkit #1 – 15 Engaging Starters

The following ideas for starting a lesson arrived in the DHSB Teaching pink post box this week. If you want to add any more please leave a comment:


‘Sketcha Pic’ – Students complete a timed sketch for 30 seconds to 1 minute from a photograph then they have to annotate the features or characteristics, a great way in any subject to generate ideas and thoughts at the start of a new topic or lesson.

‘Thunks’ – This originates from Ian Gilbert of Independent Thinking it basically is approaching a different way of asking a simple question for example using twitter as inspiration ask the question in just 140 characters sum up the theory of relativity.

‘Traffic Lights’ – Start the lesson with a focus on literacy in any subject by playing a key word game using the traffic lights in your school planner.

‘Praise’ – Start your lesson by drawing on the excellent achievements of the previous lesson, praising behaviour and attitudes etc to raise the expectations for this lesson whilst reviewing the prior learning and connecting it to the new lesson.

‘Word Wheel’ – Another great strategy to also help reinforce literacy, using the key words for the lesson in a word wheel and getting the students to discuss them or apply them.

‘Hang man’ – The gruesome yet effective way of ‘hooking’ students in to try to identify the title’ or learning objectives through play.

‘Taboo’ – A great engaging way to get students in small groups or as a whole class to guess the key words or the theme for the lesson.

‘In the News’ – Displaying a news article on the board or a series of articles displayed around the room related to the topic. Students complete a quiz or discuss them to explore the learning of the lesson.

‘Big Picture’ – Display some images on the board and students have to link them to their prior learning and also suggest how it links to their new learning. For example this could be more abstract that one image links to a series of answers that students have to explain step by step how they came to link the known topic.

‘Quotes’ – Writing words, examples or quotes on the board that link to the theme of the lesson. You could even use jokes or short video clips on a loop and students must identify the rationale behind it.

‘TED Ed’ – There are so many fantastic videos that you can use to start your lesson in an engaging and curious way. Check out this blog post for more detail.

‘Matching Task’ – Give students a hand out with some images and statements related to the learning objectives and they have to match them up then their peers check if they are correct.

‘Rally Robin’ – Getting students engaged in a dialogue about facts, knowledge and understanding from previous lessons which then links to the new knowledge of that lesson.

‘Mission Impossible’ – Hiding activities under chairs or tables and students have to find it then complete it before the music ends.

‘Circus Time’ – This has nothing to do with clowns or performing seals but basically you place several short activities around the classroom and each group moves round to complete the 7 or 8 1 minute starters including more practical elements.


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