Skip to main

March 19, 2021

Starting with Engagement: 3 Ideas to Grab Students’ Attention

Activating learning. Isn’t that what a Do Now does?


Sure, but sometimes we get so caught up in the classroom management aspect of a Do Now that once we’ve ensured that students are settled quietly in their seats as close to the final brrring of the bell as possible (while seamlessly taking attendance), we move on too quickly to the next thing on our instructional to-do list.

Why then spend a few more minutes to firing up students’ brains and maybe even getting them excited about approaching new material?  According to Research for Better Teaching, activating students’ current knowledge and thinking prior to instruction…

  • leads to cognitive engagement and focus
  • surfaces student misconceptions
  • empowers students and makes them feel more confident
  • allows teachers to gather data as to how a lesson plan might be adapted to match student knowledge or interest

While important across multiple disciplines, activating is an especially critical component of any history class, as content plays such a large role in what students are expected to master.  In fact, that’s just one of the reasons why it’s the first step in our AUSL Reading Writing Framework.  Next time you sit down to plan, check out the framework for great ideas about instructional pathways, literacy strategies to embed, pacing, and other helpful hints.  In the meantime, here are 3 activator examples worth taking a closer look at:

  1. Scenario.  One of the many thoughtful things included in each DBQ from the DBQ Project is a Hook Activity at the start of a unit that designed to….you guessed it…activate student knowledge and excitement.  In this example (found in our TchAUSL DBQ Group), Jessica Cippichio of CAHS modifies the DBQ Project’s Hook for the Asoka: Ruthless Conqueror or Enlightened Leader DBQ to include a modern day scenario sure to bring student engagement to a boiling point.
  2. Floor Storm.  This strategy works particularly well when you can provide multiple thought-provoking images to go with a particular content.  Simply cover the floor with a variety of images and give students time to wander around and note down the important details in each as well as how they make them feel.  This can then led to more involved activity around supporting details and generalizations and conclusions or just a simple brainstorming session about what predictions students can make about the topic at hand.  If you go the prediction route, make sure to check in on them as the unit progresses.
  3. Mental Imagery.  This one from Research for Better Teaching makes me wish I was still a classroom teacher because I’d love to try it out.

Have any innovative and interesting strategies for starting out your lessons? Share them with us!


Search the K12 Hub

More From Teaching Channel

8 Reading Fluency Myths

Fluency, which can be defined as reading with accuracy (correctly), automaticity (with appropriate speed), and prosody (with appropriate stress and intonation), is often forgotten when

Want to partner with us?

We’re always looking for new authors! If you’re interested in writing an article, please get in touch with us.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Get notified of new content added to K12 Hub.