How often have one of these happened to you at the start of your lessons?
- Students are talkative, loud and not focused
- Students are silent and passive
- Students stare at you and wait for you to get the lesson started
- Students have their books closed, pencil cases zipped up and are staring at you
- Students have no memory of what happened in the last class
If you find yourself answering ‘Every day!’ then a solution for you might lie in using ‘hot’ lesson starters to activate student learning. The idea behind ‘hot’ lesson starters is that students don’t wait, leave their brain cold and be passive at the start of a lesson. Rather, they realise that as active learners, they’re expected to warm themselves up and be ‘hot’ to learn for the lesson.
In his book Teach Like A Champion (find out about the book here: http://teachlikeachampion.com), Doug Lemov outlines the following conditions for effective hot lesson starters (he calls them ‘Do Nows’ – find his own examples here: http://teachlikeachampion.com/tag/do-now/):
- Students should learn to expect a lesson starter every day and the lesson starter should be delivered in the same way every day – i.e projected on the data board when students come into the class
- Students should be able to complete the lesson starter without teacher assistance
- The lesson starter should take 3-5 minutes and sharing/discussion at the end should be efficient (i.e get 2-3 random selected students to share) and should not take over the rest of the lesson
In the English classroom we can use hot lesson starters by getting students to revise yesterday’s lesson with these tasks:
- A vocabulary list taken directly from a previous lesson with the instruction: Use two of these words to write two sentences about yesterday’s topic
- A vocabulary list related to a previous lesson with the instruction: Use two of these words to write two sentences about yesterday’s topic
Without opening your books, write down three things we discussed yesterday and one question you have
- Finish two of these sentence starters to write sentences about yesterday’s topic
Or to look forward to today’s lesson by:
- Today we’ll be focusing on…What are three things you already know about…
- Today we’ll be doing an activity in which we practice using the following words. What do you think they mean and what is an example of how you’d use them in any sentence. Discuss with a partner.
- Here’s an important quote from the text which links to today’s lesson. Write down three comments or questions about the quote.
- Here are two quotes from texts we’ll be comparing today. Write down three comments or questions about the quotes.
- Here’s one sentence of persuasive writing featuring an element we’ll be focusing on today. Write down three comments or questions about the quote.
Next week, we’ll be discussing how to use The Student Guide To Writing Better Sentences and The Senior English Writing Handbook at the start of lessons by giving student vocabulary and sentence writing tasks based on resources within the books. The following week, in our exam revision strategies workshops, we’ll look at hot lesson starters specifically for exam preparation.