5 Hip ways to start your lessons

By Alex More

Word up hipsters, here’s a quick fire guide to starting your lessons with a bang! These are not ‘lesson starters’ which I have always felt are a little cliche. They are simple, easy to apply ways to start your lessons and get students active, engaged and interested.

Capturing a student’s interest is vital if we are to provide engaging lessons and avoid them switching off. Often, this means working hard to create the buzz that fuels such engagement, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. The following 10 ideas require minimum teacher effort and yield maximum student energy, the dream ticket! If you are interested, read on …

1: From the register

When you take the register, insist students answer with a keyword from last lesson, instead of their name. The word could be from  a home study task or a word relating to the learning but they must be attentive and thinking to ensure the word they use is relevant. To increase the challenge, randomize the register order and insist keywords can’t be repeated, original words only. I did this recently with a year 9 science lesson on waves. Student’s responded with words like peaks, troughs, oscillations etc and it worked great.

2: The cone game

Screenshot 2018-08-13 at 7.02.28 AM

Borrow some colored hat cones from the PE team and set up this simple but active activity. It’s great as it gets students out of their seats engaging in active learning. It works best as a pairs game and can be either played in open spaces or set up with desks in a classroom. You need a set of keywords written out and a set of cones. As pairs they take it in turns to find a keyword and bring it back to their partner where the word is added to a mini-whiteboard. 3 minutes is the ideal time for them to collect as many keywords as they can. From the glossary of key words you can ask them to create the lesson objective, a tweet about what they will learn or perhaps some questions they might have about those words.

3: Flipped Learning

Flipped learning provides students with access to content ahead of time. Students can engage with podcasts, videos, online tutorials or extended reading outside of the lesson. The teacher sets the task prior to the lesson. When the lesson arrives student’s have a basic understanding which the teacher can build on. I wrote a blog recently from hip to flip which outlines some ways teachers can engage with flipped pedagogy  https://educationalhipsters.com/?s=from+hip

I tend to use flipped learning for about 50% of my classes and all of my exam groups. Students love it and this version goes by the name of ‘Flipped 101’.

4: Speed dating

Just like real life speed dating this gem of an idea involves active learning, challenge and peer collaborative learning. 

Screenshot 2018-08-13 at 7.04.51 AM

Ask students to create 3 x questions from the content covered in your lesson. They have to do this as a home study / flipped task. The questions have to be worth 1 mark each, so short answers only. It’s worth emphasizing that students must know the answer to the question, so a little research needs to happen. When students arrive in class with their questions, inform them they will be speed dating. Students then have to find another person (someone they don’t normally work with) and take it turns to ask and answer questions. They give each other a score out of 3 then move on and find a new date / partner to ask questions. The teacher just needs to time 60 seconds per round so 120 seconds per pair and call the rotations.

5: The Post-it note game

Give each student 1 x post-it note each. Ask them to write down one keyword. The word they write down will depend on the context so let’s create a context to help you visualise how it works.

Context: Year 10 English lesson on Lord of the Flies

Ask students to write down the word they feel best describes the character Jack in the book. They can only write ONE word and they have 30 seconds to do it. Once they complete the word, ask them to keep it a secret. Set up a central table in the classroom and ask all students to stick their post-it note on the table. Once all the Post-its have been placed ask them to rotate around the table and read other people’s words. Once this is done, they have to select ONE word that they now feel represents Jack. This won’t necessarily be the word they wrote which adds an interesting dynamic. Randomly, ask students to explain WHY they selected that word, what they feel it represents.

With the start of the new academic year a few weeks away, we hope you might try an idea or two and perhaps contribute one of your own. We have 5 more ideas on how to start your lessons which we will post next week. 

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