There are numerous pages out there on the Internet, plenty of articles and indeed blogposts that feature checklists for effective lessons and things to remember to capture the attention of students. Over the years we as teachers lift little points from the things we read and try them out in our classrooms. They may work, they may not. Importantly we have taken risks to try to be innovative. This has hopefully been a quality that has been picked up by our pupils – take risks with your learning.
Effective lesson openers was always high up on the checklist for a good lesson. School life is all hustle and bustle, with planners, meetings, break time issues etc. all coming to the fore through the day. It is sometimes hard to make sure ‘all the boxes were ticked’ in a lesson. Target setting is an important area in education these days, but an important target for a teacher to set is to aim for 4/5 lesson openers over the course of a week.
Lesson openers can be very important in making learning memorable, linking activities with intentions and recapping on previous knowledge. End of year pupil questionnaires frequently refer to the ‘fun games we played at the start of Maths or English lessons.’ This fuels validity to the point that children can learn, even when they think they are playing. For example, a lesson looking at long multiplication in KS2 can begin with a quick multiplication game on the interactive whiteboard, stimulating pupils’ knowledge and drawing them into the lesson with fun, enjoyment and a little bit of competitiveness. One thing I like to do in KS2 Literacy is comprehension based on relevant issues that the pupils are aware of like the upcoming Euro 2016 soccer competition or a seasonal holiday like Halloween or Easter. Sometimes it may be hard to begin with an effective lesson opener for comprehension, but giving the pupils 5 mins to search the Internet on the iPad or workstation for 5 interesting facts about a relevant topic can develop the skills necessary for a comprehension task such as identifying key information, reading between the lines and inference skills.
In the above examples the infusion of technology was an important feature in the lesson also as it gave the pupils the opportunity to use technology as they would in their daily lives as they get older, particularly in the KS2 comprehension example.
But perhaps my most favourite lesson opener (and without technology believe it or not!!) was when the pupils looked at the Vikings in the topic Raiders & Traders and they had to debate whether or not the Vikings were raiders or traders. To give them the opportunity to understand what a raid would have been like, without warning the class next door burst into the classroom, screaming and roaring and tried to take my pupils’ pencil cases – something I might add that I had arranged with the P7 teacher prior to the lesson. My pupils were shocked, startled, didn’t know what to do, some of them were even a little frightened for a second or two, but this gave them the opportunity to feel a little of what villagers might have felt when the Vikings or Bersekers attacked.
So amid all the exciting hustle of bustle of school life hopefully this has given you a little idea of some ways to open a lesson only a few times a week.