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Read the topic on starters

Lesson starters

With the KS3 strategy, but also in any effective teaching, a great starter activity is a splendid way to grab and focus students' attention.  This page offers a growing list of suggestions for lesson starters.


If you are looking for something specific, type it in here - results will be highlighted on this page.  Otherwise, just scroll down the page for the ideas.
The emphasis is on concept of sharing the good practice - please feel free to send in your ideas via the form at the bottom of the page or the discussion forum.

Starter suggestion Used with Suggested by
Key letters – Teacher shouts out a letter or the alphabet and pupils have to respond with a key word beginning with that letter that they are currently using in their topic of study. Teacher can target groups by saying only one side can answer or pupils with surnames beginning with ........etc. Pupils and teacher (in register) can keep a little tally and after a few weeks can give out merits or equivalent for so many points reached. All Helen Surawy

Give them the answer / Jeopardy – [Or plenary in fact] Teacher gives pupils the 'answer' and they have to come up with the question! For example William the Conqueror - Who won the battle of Hastings? or Who set up the Domesday Book? Can work your way through different types of questions such as 'Humiliated' - How did the German people feel after the Treat of Versailles? After doing a few examples every pupil comes up with their own. Pick someone to start, they say their answer and who ever give a correct question has their turn and so on. Chance for more able students to think able really alternative questions, even less able students can think of easy questions. All Helen Surawy

Historical Just a Minute – Students are given a topic to research, say the execution of Charles I. After an allotted time they are hotseated at the front of the class and have to talk on that topic for 1 minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition. The class listens for an infringements of the rules and if they make a valid challenge they continue in the hotseat until the minute is up. One point for a correct challenge and one point for still being in the hotseat when the original minute expires. All Chris Higgins

This Day in History – Students are assigned a current school day. Students are to research that day and find one important event that happened that day. The student will then stand at the front of the class and tell what happened. Teacher can use the event to expand on history and if possible connect it to what you are studying at that time or some current event. The presentation should not be longer than 2-3 minutes. All Jim Keough

Paired discussion – Save boring admin like the register/giving out books until a more appropriate time during the lesson. It's always a good idea to connect the learning to what has gone before. Avoid the negative experience of no one putting their hand up by giving them 2 mins paired discussion with some stimulus questions on what they learnt last time, you'll get a bigger and more positive response from a larger number of students. Then hit them (metaphorically) with today's learning points. All Andy Walker

Remember the Picture – Pupils given copy of a picture to study for 2 minutes and try to remember details. Then pupils must turn picture over and give feedback to teacher (or write down) about the details they can remember from the picture. Good for focussing pupils’ attention on pictorial sources with lots of detail in them. All Stuart Barnett

Pictionary - Pupil volunteers to 'draw' a key word on the board. Class have to guess it. All Stuart Barnett

Hangman – Based on key words/phrases. I use this to introduce new key words. All Stuart Barnett

Bingo – Pupils given ‘bingo’ sheets containing key words from the subject. Teacher reads out definitions of key words. Pupils mark their bingo sheets when they hear teacher read a definition that matches one of the key words on their sheet. First pupil to get a line calls ‘BINGO!’ and wins. All Stuart Barnett

Taboo – One pupil describes a key word to the class without using any of the ‘taboo words’. Class try to guess the key word. All Stuart Barnett

Countdown – 30 seconds to unscramble a new key word. You can download the countdown theme tune from mp3 sites such as www.audiogalaxy.com All Stuart Barnett

Creating titles – Teacher writes 3 or 4 key words on board. Pupils create their own titles for the piece of work they are about to do, using all of the key words. All Stuart Barnett

Mind Movies – Pupils close eyes. Read part of a short story or passage to class. Tell them to imagine what is happening in their mind. When you have finished reading, tell pupils to keep their eyes closed and continue to ‘run the movie’ in their minds for one minute. Take feedback from class about what happened in their mind movies. Could be very good for introducing certain topics. All Stuart Barnett

20 questions – Teacher (or a pupil volunteer) picks a key person, event, place etc. that is connected to the topic. The class are allowed to ask 20 Yes or No answer questions to try to find out what person, event etc. has been picked. All Stuart Barnett

Odd one out – Pupils given 3-4 key words/places/people etc. They have to say which is the odd one out – and give a reason why. In most cases any of them could be the odd one out, as long as a valid reason is given. They then have to suggest another word that can be added to the group that will keep the 'odd one out' the same. All Stuart Barnett

Guess Who?/Guess what? – Teacher gives class clues to describe key people, events, places etc. from the topic to be studied. Clues start hard and get progressively easier: e.g. "Had 6 wives" would be an easy clue.
Class try to guess the answer.
All Stuart Barnett

What can you remember? – Pupils review/write down the main points learnt in the last lesson(s). Could be done in pairs or groups. All Stuart Barnett

Introduction to history - showing history is also about them
In pairs the pupils have to tell each other about something they have achieved and how they can prove it.  The results usually bring out all types of evidence: Oral - you could ask someone who saw it happen, Written - a certificate or newspaper report of it, Physical - a medal or such like, Visual - a photo or video recording, Music - a tape recording of their performance!, the site - go back to the building or place it happened the evidence is still there! ... and so on.
KS3 Richard Drew

Connecting lessons Set a simple homework task for the previous lesson which is relevant to the lesson. For instance a crossword or short research task on Elizabeth I etc.

At the start of the lesson brainstorm for a spider diagram on the board. Give the 'spider' 20 legs and get the pupils to tell you as much as they know from their homework. They may get to 10 with your 'control' of the discussion!  As the lesson goes on, wipe the ideas on the spider diagram from the warm up off the board.

At the end of the lesson get the students to do the same spider diagram exercise again, but this time watch as they fill the 20 points and more with relish.  The message of learning is clear, the atmosphere is success, and it is perfectly possible to challenge them to justify their points and even get challenges going between two conflicting points of evidence picked up during the lesson.
All Stephen Drew

Introducing medicine through time I describe the level of civilisation and the forms of communications available. Students are then presented with a range of ailments and wounds.

They have to work out how to treat these without any access to a doctor etc. Most classes have quickly decided that as "cavemen" they wouldn't understand many illnesses and establish their own pattern of supernatural believes. Likewise they tend to develop this to a point where most of the major factors that influence change in medical practice are noted within the first couple of minutes of a discussion.
KS4 Dan Moorhouse

Simple introduction to interpretations. Have sources sheets on the desks ready when the pupils come in on  - say Henry VIII. One half of the room have sheets with glowing references to Henry from his early life and handsome pictures. the other half of the room have very negative quotes from the end of his life and thoroughly unpleasant pictures. they have 5 minutes to read the sources and list Henry's traits.

Then the fun begins - the class begin to feed back on Henry and are giving very very different viewpoints. They want to know why and the desire to understand key element 3 begins.
Year 7 Richard Drew

Play your Cards Right - Another good one for Chronology is 'Play your cards right'. Same rules as the quiz show. One contestant has AD year cards, and the other has BC year cards. Instead of 'higher' or 'lower', the contestants (and 'audience', if you are encouraging all the pupils to participate) have to choose 'earlier' or 'later'. They usually get the BC ones wrong at first of course, but it encourages them to remember the way BC works correctly - especially if the winner gets a small prize!
See this online at ActiveHistory.co.uk
All Stuart Barnett

Pupil as teacher.  I do really like the idea of letting pupils 'be teacher' at the start of lessons and running through the main points of the last lesson with the class. Yesterday one of my Y9s, using only an OHP of a map of Europe, gave an excellent summary to the class of the Alliance System in 1914. He even tested the class on the key words (Alliance, Empire etc.) we had been learning. All Stuart Barnett

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