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April 19, 2021

Five Ways to Start Your Lessons

Attention getters, do nows, morning meetings, hugs, and high fives. These are often the ways teachers start their days. By now, you probably have your routines in place for how you start your day or class period. But sometimes it’s good to mix it up. Or maybe you’re looking for an exciting entrance to a specific lesson plan. Just like writers, teachers often need a hook!

Whether you’re mixing it up or just curious about what other teachers do, check out these five videos to see five different ways teachers start their lessons.

1. Start with a Video

Everyone loves a good video, especially kids. Video can be a great way to pique interest or teach a simple concept before a lesson. In Coding in the Algebra Classroom, high school teacher Joshua Kwon starts his lesson with a clip from a car racing video game. He hopes by asking his students to watch and wonder about something familiar to many of them, he can warm up their brains for the math concepts in his lesson, where they’ll be creating their own computer animations.

2. Start with an Object

Another way to get your students wondering about a topic is to show them objects related to the content. Ready to do some creative writing? Inspire them with sensory objects. Getting ready to read a book? Show them objects from the book and ask them to make connections, predictions, or ask questions. You could bring in actual objects for students to touch and smell, or simply show a set of images. In Scaffolds for Critical Thinking, Sarah Brown Wessling opens a mystery box filled with photos before starting a challenging lesson with a class of fourth graders. Watch as she uses this box to create an environment that encourages her students to be curious.

3. Start with a Question

Find out what your students already know or think about a topic with a question. There are so many ways to do this: ask the whole class, encourage small group discussions, write it on the board and ask students to do a quick write, or try using a poll. To see a poll in action, watch Using Technology to Boost Confidence. In this video, high school teacher Johanna Paraiso explains how she uses technology to build communication skills in her class, including warming up her students for academic discussions with polls using Google Forms. No matter which method you try, questions are a great way to get your students thinking.

4. Start with Movement

Have an early class of tired high schoolers? Are your 1st graders squirmy after lunch? Get them on their feet with Sarah Brown Wessling’s Stand Up Game. For this strategy, you start your lesson with a question, but the twist is that you get everyone on their feet to answer it. Students are able to sit down when they share their answer with the class. Take two minutes to watch this fun idea and then give it a try yourself.

5. Start with a Mistake

Make learning from mistakes a natural part of your daily lessons. Next time you’re thinking of starting off your lesson with an exemplar, consider what could be learned by sharing student work that’s not quite perfect. Take a look at My Favorite No to see how Leah Alcala begins her lesson with a brief formative assessment activity and uses it as an opportunity to teach her students to learn from their mistakes. And for more ways to begin your lessons with formative assessment, be sure to check out our Formative Assessment Deep Dive filled with ideas for you to explore.

How do you like to start off your lessons? Share your thoughts below. And, let us know if any of these ideas sparked your creativity!

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