20 engaging ideas for starters

Author: Megan Pitman
Published: 17/08/2020
  1. Object identification. Bring in objects relating to the lesson content. Can students predict the topic/content/learning outcomes? 
  2. Agree/disagree. Give students statements relating to prior learning, the topic you are studying or a contentious/relevant issue in your subject. Create a human continuum – students should decide where to stand on a line of agreement.
  3. Pick a question, any question! Ask students to write down any questions they have on the topic/area you’re studying. Put these into a hat and pick some out. See if the students can answer them first, and then you answer if they can’t!
  4. Pictionary or blind draw. Students could draw key words for each other to guess. Alternatively, one student should describe a key word, process or concept for another student to try to draw.
  5. If this is the answer, what is the question? Give students the answers only, and they have to work out the questions.
  6. Ranking. Rank statements, images, quotes, etc. in order of importance. Use a diamond 9 template to help.
  7. Picture reveal. Just like Catchphrase, slowly reveal an interesting image related to today’s lesson and ask students to guess what it is/ask questions about it.
  8. Knowledge relay. Place a page of information about today’s learning at the front of the class. Split your class into small groups. Each student in the group has 30 seconds to get to the front and recall as much as possible before returning to their team and trying to recreate what they’ve seen/read.
  9. Balloon or shipwrecked raft debate. Choose five ‘people’ from today’s news, public life, popular culture or history, and/or figures who are relevant to your current topic. Ask students which person they would not throw out of a sinking hot air balloon or push off a shipwrecked raft, etc. and why.
  10. Corners activity. Put four different topic images/phrases/viewpoints in the corners of the classroom, and then ask students to go to the corner they relate to most. They could then discuss with others in that corner why they agree with each other. Or you could put one person from each corner together to make groups of four to discuss why they have differing views
  11. Guess who. Put students into pairs and hand out a wad of sticky notes to each pair.  They write a word or statement relating to the lesson and put it on their partner’s head.  Their partner then has to guess what or who they are. 
  12. Nine box squares. Write nine key words, used in the previous lesson, in boxes on the board. Challenge students to make a sentence using at least three words, or a short paragraph using them all.
  13. Question time. Ask students a series of questions (on a theme or topic). They have to answer without saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  14. Write a subject dictionary. Ask students to create their own ‘dictionary’ of key words and ask them to complete definitions of words learned from the previous lesson.
  15. Ordering. String up a ‘washing line’ across your classroom and get students to peg up ‘event’ or key word cards from your topic in some kind of order (chronological, sequential, relationships, etc.).  
  16. Word tennis. Divide the class into two groups and get them to take it in turns to say a word related to the current topic. No words can be repeated. The idea is that this is a game of word tennis and so should be scored as such.
  17. Would I lie to you? Based on the game and radio show format, write a series of statements relating to a topic you’ve covered. Some of the statements should be untrue. Students need to identify the untrue statements. For an alternative version, ask students to do this activity in pairs.
  18. Tableaux. Ask students to create a freeze frame or tableau to represent their learning in recent weeks (try using gummy bears or jelly babies for the freeze frame with less confident students). You might want the focus to be more about the way they have learnt, rather than what they have learnt, or their level of motivation/attitude/approach. 
  19. Stream of consciousness. This starter requires time and quiet. Give students a key topic. In silence, ask them to write down everything they can remember or associate with this topic, however random, in whatever way they choose to write it. The aim is for it to represent their own individual thought processes.  
  20. Imagining. Print out a series of images relating to the lesson or topic. Ask a series of questions. What are the connections? Which images don’t make sense? What’s interesting? What is missing? Can they be put in a sequence? 

Download the free PDF version of our 20 engaging ideas for starters

Megan Pitman

Megan is an Editor at Teachit and a former geography teacher with experience working in a variety of secondary school settings teaching KS3, KS4 and KS5 students and as an online private tutor. During her teaching career, she delivered whole-school PSHE and British values initiatives and supported colleagues' professional development in these areas.