Lesson starters are quick five minute activities to get students ready to learn. They can be used to review previously taught material, to introduce a new topic, or to get a feel for what students already know about a lesson you are about to teach. Although lesson starters are short, they are an important part of your teacher toolbox because they can help set the tone for an upcoming lesson, grab your students’ attention, and set students up for an engaged learning experience.
1) Simple web
One of my favorite lesson starters is a simple web. This lesson starter is best used to review previously taught material in a unit before teaching new material. I usually do this kind of lesson starter after a weekend or a long break between lessons in a unit. To make the web, I will write the theme of the unit on the board. For example, I might write landforms on the board. Then students will have two minutes to write down in their notebooks everything they remember about landforms. They can write notes, sentences, draw a picture, whatever form of note taking they prefer. After the two minutes is up, we try to complete our web with one new piece of information from each student. This lesson starter is fun and engaging because the students enjoy the competition to come up with different facts about a topic in a limited amount of time. The students are also usually impressed when the board is full of facts. The web provides a good visual diagram for all they have learned so far.
2) See, Think, Wonder
Another one of my favorite lesson starters is to do a “see, think, wonder”. I use this kind of lesson starter when we begin a unit. I put an interesting photograph on the board for students to observe. I have the students look at the image for about one full minute. It is important not to reveal anything about the image because this is an opportunity for students to be curious and explore new material. Then, I will give my students a chart that says “see, think, wonder”. Students will have three minutes, about one minute per column, to complete the chart. The see column should be filled with things they see just by looking at the photograph (ie: a bird, a lake, clouds, ect.) The think column should be filled with any thoughts that pop up in their heads while looking at this image (e.g. This reminds me of a suburban neighborhood.). The last column, wonder, is filled with questions the students have about the image (e.g. Why are there no sidewalks in this photograph?) After the three minutes is up, we do a quick share of what we wrote in our chart. This is an engaging way to spark student conversation and curiosity about any new unit.
3) Media with Post-it Notes
A third lesson starter is to play a video or song related to the lesson you are about to teach. I like to give my students two different colored post-it notes during this kind of lesson starter. One color is for new things they learned in the video and the other color is for things they already knew that was in the video. After playing the video, students have the chance to share one of their post-it notes. We sort the post-its into two columns on an anchor chart. Throughout the unit or lesson, we will move post-it notes from one column to the other or add a third color as we learn new information. This is similar to the popular KWL chart. This kind of lesson starter is engaging because students really enjoy watching videos or listening to songs. It is a fun way to include different learning styles into a lesson and can get the students excited for what they are about to learn. The post-it notes also provide another visual for students to see what they already know and what they have already learned. They also serve as a great tool to reference throughout the lesson or unit as students continue to learn.
Overall, lesson starters don’t need to be overly complicated to be effective. They should be quick activities that grab students’ attention and help them transition from one subject to another. Hopefully these 3 tried and true lesson starters are ones you find useful and that you can add to your teacher toolbox to continue engaging your students in both fun and meaningful ways.
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