Monday, 26 May 2014

Stimulating Starters

How you start your lesson can often have the biggest impact on pupils engagement and behaviour. Pupils have come from another room, another subject and another teacher. How do you welcome them into your classroom and tell them that you mean business? In this post, I hope to show you some ways in which you can engage learners from the minute they step through the door.

It's a common misconception that the first thing that pupils should do is get the date and title in their books and then share objectives. While this may be a well established routine in your classroom, try and shake it up. Greet pupils at the door and give them something to engage them the minute they walk in or provide them with an interesting visual stimulus on the board.

Word Snakes

Word Snakes can be a really easy and engaging way to give pupils a lot of vocab while they do all the work. I've found that providing pupils with an initial task like this instantly engages them and builds confidence when they can find cognates. It's a very simple task to create and you can further differentiate by adding extensions like the one seen above.


Having a video or song playing as pupils enter the room can be a really great stimulus and can instantly engage. A good example of this was when I was starting a topic about shopping in a market in Spanish. I found a video of La BoquerĂ­a in Barcelona and had this playing as pupils entered the room. I asked them to note down any items that they already knew the words for. As they tend to come in dribs and drabs from different places around the school this allowed everyone to take part immediately.


Wordles can be a really interesting way of displaying new vocab to pupils. I often leave a Wordle on the board as pupils enter the room. This allows them to start thinking about what the lesson will be about while working with new, key vocabulary in an interesting way. These can often work as a real confidence booster with pupils realising they already know some language before you've even started teaching them!

Create A Sentence

This does what it says on the tin really. Set challenges to see how many sentences pupils can make. Ask pupils to extend or link them in order to make more complex work. This can either be done as a speaking or writing activity.

Grammar Gap Fill

This is especially useful as a grammar assessment if you've taught pupils a key verb the previous lesson or have set a learning homework. Do they know what they need to? If not, you instantly find out whether you need to backtrack a little or revisit the point before starting today's lesson. 

Broken Vocab

Another quick and easy way to quickly recap vocab is by breaking up previously seen vocabulary into two halves. Can pupils match them up? Further challenge pupils by adding a time limit or incite competition by offering prizes to teams who can complete the activity fastest.

Vocab Sort 

Give pupils dictionaries and allow them to work in teams to sort vocabulary into categories. You can further push pupils by throwing in red herrings or vocab that could fit into both categories allowing you to further question their decisions.

Challenge Questions

Greet pupils at the door with a Post-It note and ask them to answer the questions on the board. You can allow pupils to find answers in their books or try to stretch themselves by abandoning books for good old brain power.

Emoji Sentences

I tried this out recently and it went down an absolute storm. I've been teaching the topic of Free Time to Year 7 and I thought it Emojis lent themselves quite well to the topic. I decided to give pupils a series of pictures from which they had to make sentences from. This was just a quick whiteboard activity that forced pupils to use previous work to help them recap the grammar and vocabulary from the previous lesson.

Do you have any ideas for great, engaging starters?
Feel free to share them in the comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Great practical ideas. I must say I tended to greet at door, do the formal greeting/ sit down then get into an oral drill to make sure they were all focused on me and alert for the work to come. I would sometimes keep them standing during the oral warm-up, yhen it would be a moment of tension release when they sat down.