A proper lesson plan, good content and a passion for teaching are essential for making class interesting. But sometimes it’s necessary to start the class differently so that students stay motivated, engaged and energized. Starters, also known as hooks, should be an important part of any lesson plan. Whatever you pick to do, the start of class is the perfect time to create a routine and get to work as quickly as possible.
Instructions on the Board
Before class starts, write the instructions on the board. Tell the students what book to take out, a unit to read, activities, or worksheets they can immediately start as soon as they sit down.
Then, as soon as they enter class, engage the students. Ask them questions, how are they doing, what did they do last weekend, what special is happening that week. It shows that you are interested in their lives and also conditions them to open up and take part in the class activities.
Once they sit down, they start by following the instructions and getting to work.
Too much time is wasted by waiting for students to settle down and take the register. This way you maximize the learning time they have with you, and it puts them to work immediately. Students will respect you, and you will get a reputation as a teacher who cares about their learning.
Instead of you going through the lesson’s target vocabulary, why not write it on the board for them to copy. Alternatively, how I like doing it is to write scrambled words on the board. For older students, you can write a scrambled phrase related to the lesson ahead.
For example, you could also write a word on the board, and ask students to write as many words as they can make using the letters from that word. Here is a website that can help with that:
You enter a word and it then gives all the possible vocabulary that can be made from it.
Slow Down Class
Some teachers prefer fun routines for students to enter class, pre-Covid-19 they would hug, high-five, or do a special handshake. Such routines may be cute but ultimately eat up time and overly have little value besides bonding in class. Another effective technique to calm older students is to do a few minutes of guided meditation. Ask students to close their eyes, breathe deeply, and prepare mentally to do the tasks planned for today.
Class starters are mostly used to energize and prepare students for class, but if a class has too much energy, you may consider slowing them down.
Some teachers create an inviting atmosphere by playing pop music—I’m not a fan, as it adds nothing to a lesson and is often quite distracting. It could add energy but could cause students to lose focus. I’d rather add energy through activities.
For example, with young learners, you could start class with a chant. While playing music, they sing along and do the movements. This is a great TPR (Total Physical Response) activity.
I did an Alphabet chant that works great for phonics. – Check it out up here.
Tell a Story
Students love listening to an engaging story from their teacher. Tell them a dramatized account of your weekend. Make it funny and interesting. Teachers have to be good storytellers, and that only happens through practice. Extra points if it creates a connection to the work they will do that day. Then refer back to the story when you explain certain parts.
Provide a compelling anecdote related to class content. This might be an interesting fact, case, or news story that captures students’ attention.
Play an icebreaker that prepares them for the lesson ahead. You can play one game from Bamboozle, or do some kind of board race. Board races place students into teams where they try to be the first team to the end. You could also play some team point games. One of my favorites includes a die and scoring. Make sure each student gets a chance to answer a question.
Another simple activity is something like a ball toss. Ask a question, then throw a soft ball to the student who needs to answer, who in turn, has to ask another question and throw the ball to someone else.
This might sound simple, but it’s up to the teacher to challenge their students, and we do that by questioning them. By asking questions, you guide them to the theme or topic of the lesson. You don’t want a student to feel bad, so if they cannot answer, ask their partner to help.
When asking questions, start with easy ones to build their confidence. You don’t want students to be overwhelmed at the beginning of the class.
Present a controversial or compelling question for students to think about related to course content. Students can also do a think-pair-share activity or ask one another questions.
At the end of class, you can ask students questions to review the content and to check their understanding. We call these exit tickets where students have to answer a question in order to leave class.
(I wrote a book with 1000 Questions and Answers on 52 topics that students can ask each other.)
Review previous Lessons
Review earlier lessons—Ask students to brainstorm and reconstruct previous content and conversations. This method provides purpose across meetings and helps students access prior knowledge.
Reactivate Prior Knowledge—Ask questions, provide brief demonstrations, or ask for elaborations in order to activate student thinking about previous topics. This method helps students build new knowledge of earlier learning.
A simple way to start class is with the help of a KWL or Know, Want to know, Learned chart:
What do I know? What do I want to know/what do I wonder? What have I learned?
KWL methods help students to graphically assess what they know on the topic and set them up for the lesson ahead.
The teacher can guide free writing. Ask students to write a list with a partner, create a mind map between different ideas, a one-minute paper, or any response-to-prompt papers focusing on past or future topics. Where students write a paper with an introduction, body, and conclusion.
It helps if you give them a visual clue. Like a picture to activate their imagination.
You can follow up with think-pair-share activities or a class discussion.
Quizzes might be stressful for some students, but they are a good way to get the class started. And just because you call it a quiz doesn’t mean it has to count toward your students’ grades. Give your students a short quiz on whatever topic you have studied recently, or to gain insight on their knowledge of the topic you will cover in the lesson, preparing them for what’s coming.
Plus, if you give quizzes often enough, your students will become experts at taking them and do even better at the ones that count.
A simple paper bag can be a great way to start the day. Put items in the bag and ask a student to feel and describe what they feel. Alternatively, you can give each student ten to fifteen seconds to feel inside and then list as many objects as they recognize. See who wrote the most correct items.
Set your lessons and students up for success by starting on the right foot. A good start to class can make or break your life as a teacher.