5 more hip ways to start your lessons

By Alex More

Thanks for your feedback on our last blog 5 hip ways to start your lessons It seems there was some genuine enthusiasm to try some of our ideas out. So, here are 5 more ways to help you create the most engaging starts to your lessons. We hope you like them!

1: Low access, high challenge

This idea is straight from the Lazy outstanding teacher handbook and works well to engage students in critical thinking from of the off. Present students with an image and a question. The image should be powerful enough to intrigue them and perhaps puzzle them a little. I tend to use https://unsplash.com/ &https://pixabay.com/en/photos/amazing/ for the images are both sites are free and easy to use.

Below are some examples of how I have used the low access, high challenge method. It’s low access as it involves everyone, very inclusive and high challenge because you can take the conversation as far into the learning as you feel time and interest permits. As a guide I normally allow 5 minutes for this task.

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I used this recently with a boisterous Year 9 computing lesson. Within seconds, everyone had an opinion and argued their logic and rationale. Conversations and disagreements were rife and everyone loved it. Who do you think would win this fight?

Here is another example used with a GCSE PE group.

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Student’s were presented with the answer and had to come up with a viable question. This proved quite challenging and took a little time for students to reach logical questions but the end result was interesting. ‘If this was the learning prompt, what was the lesson about?’

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I used this one in a Year 9 computing lesson to engage some thinking around how technology might change by the Year 2043. Some great conversations about hot-desking, hologram imaging and virtual reality emerged and students seemed very open to listening to the ideas of others. This image could be adapted to suit any classroom environment and works really well.

2:  Make the connection

This idea places a high cognitive demand on students and really makes them think. The idea works best if students are allowed to work in small teams (2 to 4 people max). Present students with two separate images on the screen and ask them to make the connection in 5 links. It helps if you use images related to the learning. In a recent A level PE lesson on the history of football in the UK I used this image;

Students then had to map the evolution of football as they saw it. To maximise the potential of this idea ask a spokesperson for each group to read out their 5 steps.

3: Plickers

Plickers uses technology to embrace learning and will rely on the teacher using a mobile device to scan student responses. It’s a simple concept but amazingly effective at engaging students in Q&A, short answer assessment during lessons and students don’t need their own devices!

From the Plickers website https://www.plickers.com/ or the App you can download a set of A4 paper cards. Once printed, each student is given a Plickers card. The teacher can then use the App or online version of Plickers to preset a series of questions. Student’s respond by raising their card in class. The teacher then scans the class and the answers are presented on the screen for all to see. Simple, effective assessment and highly engaging.

4: Gamification

This idea works on risk and reward. Divide the class into teams of 4. Set a series of 1 mark questions, simple answers. For example; What is the capital city of Mexico? Each group has to record their answer and hold it up on a mini-whiteboard. The teacher scans to see the answers and then offers each team the option to STICK or TWIST. If they stick and have the correct answer they bank 1 point. If they decide to twist then the teacher flips a coin and if they call it right they double their points. If they flip and call wrong it’s back to zero

5: Summarise in a tweet

This idea embraces the fact that your students are most likely digital natives and adds a social media element to the learning which they like and can relate to. Ask them to create a TWEET (280 characters now, up from 140 previously) to share with the class. You can differentiate the challenge as concise sentence structure to form a tweet in 140 characters can be more difficult than allowing them 280. Students have to work hard to grammatise a coherent tweet that they feel is worthy of sharing. Below are some contexts in which this has been applied.

  • Summarise what you learned last lesson in a tweet
  • Create today’s lesson objective as a tweet
  • Explain through a tweet Newton’s law of relativity
  • Form a tweet to describe why plastic is bad for our oceans
  • Mark your partners work and Tweet them the feedback in 140 characters

Give these ideas a try and let us know what you think.

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