35 ways to introduce your lesson topic

Are you fed up with using the same old methods to introduce your lesson topic? Look no further! Here are 35 ways to kick off your lesson. How many have you tried?

  1. Using an anecdote

Example topic: idiomsnumber 1

You know I play football, right? No? Well I love it. Anyway, I went into town to buy some new boots the other day. I’m in Sports Direct, and I see these Nike boots that I really like, they’re the new model. The assistant comes over and is like

“can I help you?”

And I’m “yeah. Can you tell me how much these are?”

She says “They’re £500”

And I said “£500???? That’s an arm and a leg!”

Here’s some example flashcards I made for teaching idioms. These could also be used for a ‘dingbats’ warmer (see number 22).

 

  1. Cuisenaire Rods creation

Example topic: Tourist attractions

Give each pair of students a bunch of Cuisenaire rods.

“Work in pairs. Use the rods to create a model of a well-known tourist attraction in [town/city/country/continent]. You have 2 minutes”

Students then look at each model and guess the attraction.

 

  1. Cuisenaire Rods model

Create your own model using rods. Elicit what it represents.

(Here is my example of the UK political parties and their share of the vote, for a recent lesson on politics)

number3

  1. Musical “Guess the topic”

Example topic: family and relationships

Think of 3 or 4 songs which in some way reference the theme/topic of your lesson

Avril Lavigne – Skater Boi (“he was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”)

The Hollies – He ain’t heavy (he’s my brother)

Baz Luhman – Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen (“maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t…”)

Ozzy Ozbourne – Mama I’m coming home

Play students a relevant segment of the song (where something about the topic is referenced). Ask them to write notes on what they hear, compare notes, and guess the topic of the lesson.

 

  1. Family fortunes (my favourite)

Example topic: British customs and culture / stereotypes

Create a fake family fortunes style question:

“We asked 100 people from England, Scotland and Wales – which things make you a typical Brit?”

Board the following

1 ________________     2 ____________  3_____________  4____________ 5____________

Students work in groups to prepare answers. Make it a little game (they win points for each correct answer).

Five possible answers for the above: queuing, drinking tea, talking about the weather, eating fish and chips, having bad teeth.

 

  1. Picture parts

Example topic: animals

Make some extreme close-up pictures of animals. Pass them around and get the students to guess what they are and hence the topic of the lesson

 

  1. Picture association “Guess the topic”

Example topic: ‘once in a lifetime’

Gather pictures of things that people MIGHT do only once in a lifetime.

Examples: drive a Ferrari, skydive, run a marathon, win the lottery(?), see a shooting star(?).

number7a number7b number7c number7d

Board the pictures or pass them round, students discuss each one and guess the common theme.

 

  1. Complete the sentence

Topic: Making apologies

Think of a relevant starter sentence and have students complete in their own words

“The most common time to say sorry is….”

Topic: 2nd conditionals

“If I looked like David Beckham, I would…”

 

  1. Me/not me

Example topic: Food and drinknumber9

Get students to create a table with two categories

Read a list of different foods/drinks. Students write each word you dictate into their table in the correct category depending on their tastes. They then compare with their partner/group to see if they are similar or different.

  1. What are they saying?

Display a picture of someone on the board. Give students a speech bubble in groups, or draw a speech bubble for each group on the board. Students write what the person is saying

Example topic: the royal familynumber10

You could also do a caption competition

 

  1. Me and my partner questionsnumber11

Example topic: hobbies and interests

Make a series of questions or statements related to the topic. Have students answer the questions themselves. Then, they ask their partner the questions and compare answers. They could do this with two different partners to add more speaking. They could even predict their partners answers first, and see if they were right.

 

  1. Classic ‘Find someone who…’ mingle

Students walk around asking questions to classmates to find out information. Compare answers with their partner afterwards, and feedback as a class.

Example topic: fears/phobiasnumber12

  1. Slow reveal…

Start drawing a picture on the board, but only one line of it. Have students guess what it is

‘A snake’, ‘a line’, etc.

Encourage creativity. Add the next line, encourages guesses, keep doing this until eventually a student guesses the picture/lesson topic

Example topic: Castles in Britain

number13

  1. Realia

Example topic: hobbies and interests

Bring in 5 items that represent your own hobbies, can students guess pastimes?

Mine – Bit of wool (knitting), keyboard (blogging), crossword, binoculars (birdwatching), rubber chicken (making jokes)

 

  1. what happens next?

Show a relevant video, pause it at a key point and have students predict what might happen.

Example topic: using modal verbs to express probability

Pause clip after 7 seconds. Students discuss what might happen. Give some process language (that player might… it might… maybe… the ball/the player/a fan will… etc). Or give them 3 options for what might happen. Play clip to see if prediction was correct (note: last 10 seconds of this video has some swearing).

 

  1. Use authentic listening

Play students a relevant short clip of a movie/TV. Only let them hear the sound. Create a listening task relevant to the topic.

Example topic: feelings/emotions

Listen to the following clip. Write down any emotions you feel the speakers express.

Or

Listen to the clip. Circle all the emotions that speakers show

Excitement         anger       patience              shock      humour      etc

Now let them watch the clip and write down any extra emotions they ‘see’

 

  1. Make your own audio

Create a short listening text as a topic lead in.

Example topic: giving advice

  1. Matching quiz

This is a good way to introduce target language straight away. Teaching English Grammar (Scrivener) gives plenty of examples for how to present target language, I recommend taking a look

Example topic: passives

Match the inventions to the inventor…

The light bulb was invented by…               Alexander Graham Bell

 The telephone was invented by…             Tim Berners-Lee                                                               

The internet was invented by…                  Thomas Edison

Etc…

 

  1. Boggle guess the word

Use the letters from the lesson topic to make a little game

Example topic: Solar System – the planetsnumber19

 

  1. Moving true or false

Check what your students know about a topic with quick fire true or false questions. However, make it more exciting. All students, stand up. If they think the answer is true, they stand on the left of the classroom. False, on the right. If they get it wrong, they are out (they sit back down). Continue until one student remains. They are the winner, reward them with… a round of applause.

 

  1. Moving agree/disagree

This just makes warm up discussion questions more fun and mixes up speakers. Make different corners of the room different opinions – e.g.

Stand near the door if you agree

Stand in the corner over there (point) if you strongly agree

Stand near Pedro’s desk if you disagree

Etc

Read a statement, students move to the relevant corner, then give them 1 or 2 minutes to discuss the statement with whoever is in the corner. If there is only one person in a particular space then you could bounce a few ideas from each corner as a class discussion, or send a student with a different opinion over to debate it.

 

  1. Dingbats

These are fun drawings that represent a word.

Example topic: technology.

Draw a few dingbats on the board. Students guess the words then guess what the theme of the lesson might be.

number22a

(smart phone)

 

  1. Discussion questions

Example topic: crime and punishment

Q1: Do you agree with the death penalty?

Q2: ‘life means life’. What does this refer to, and do you agree?

Etc.

 

  1. Secret realia

Bring in objects in a ‘santa’s sack’. Put the sack on the table. Allows certain students to feel the objects through the sack. They work with a partner/team to guess the objects and the common theme between each object.

 

  1. ‘Coffeepotting’

This can be done in many ways, but a good one is by providing a short text where the target word is missing, and has been replaced with the word ‘Coffeepot’. Students guess the correct word

Example topic: television

Coffeepot was invented in the 1920s, but became popular after World War 2. At first, coffeepots were black and white, but then it changed to colour. Coffeepot is a form of entertainment. These days, almost every household has a coffeepot. (etc…)

 

  1. Verbal ‘coffeepotting’

Again the target word has been replaced by the word ‘Coffeepot’. Students ask questions to help guess what word ‘Coffeepot’ actually is…

Example topic: MacDonalds

Student: is coffeepot a noun?

Teacher: yes…

Student: can coffeepot be a verb too?

Teacher: no

Student: is coffeepot an object?

Teacher: well, you can have a coffeepot, yes.

Student: is it a place?

Teacher: is what a place?

Student: sorry, is coffeepot a place?

Etc…

 

  1. Complete the dialogue (similar to ‘what are they saying’!)

Put pictures on the board of random interactions between people. Have students create suitable dialogues. Choose pictures that will direct to the topic…

Example topic: how and when to apologisenumber27

Man: _______________________________

Woman: ____________________________

 

  1. Mnemonic race

If introducing a familiar topic, a way to activate prior knowledge might be for students to create a Mnemonic from the topic word, using associated words

Example topic: Feelings

F –antastic

E –xcellent

E – lated

L –azy

I – nsecure

N- auseous!

G- utted

S –tupid

 

  1. Whiteboard race

Divide students into two teams, and divide the whiteboard down the middle. Students line up in two teams. The first person in each line has a pen. When you say the topic, they run to the board, write a word related to the topic, pass the pen to the next person then join the back of their line. The next person then writes another word and passes the pen on. Do this for 2 minutes as a race. If one team writes a word that the other team already have they get no points. Again, checks prior knowledge.

 

  1. Categorising

Display a set of familiar words related (or less so) to the topic. Ask students to divide the words into at least 3 different categories. Conduct class feedback/discussion and have students share their categories and explain why they chose them.

Example topic: health and fitness

Smoking, running, drugs, red wine, football, movies, reading, clubbing, vitamins, snakes, vegetables, birdwatching

Possible student created categories:

Things that benefit your health       Things that damage your health        unrelated words

(playing) football                                clubbing (too much)                                 snakes

Smoking (relieve stress)                    drugs

Reading (relaxation)                                       etc

 

With this activity, you’ll be surprised at some of the categories. Also, it leads to instant discussion:

‘Snakes are not unrelated, they could seriously damage your health’

‘Smoking is good for you?! No way!’

Etc

 

  1. What does that mean?

Board the lesson topic. Have learners write a short definition of it. I did this yesterday and this happened:

Example topic: lookalikes

Definitions…

Group 1: like a look (?)

Group 2: to look like something or someone

Group 3: look and act like something

Group 4: be person not you famous (?)

 

  1. Organise and discussnumber32

Think of a statement related to the topic. Get lots of small slips of paper. Write one word of the statement on each slip. Jumble up the words. Hand one set of the words to each group. The group work together to put the statement in the correct order, then discuss their opinions on it.

If the topic is particularly familiar or the learners are high level, get them to think of the statement and create the organisation task (statement minimum 8 words or something).

 

  1. odd one out

For general discussion…

Board 4 or 5 common words related to the topic. Have students decide which word is the odd one out and why. Example topic: jobs/ambitions

Fireman               Doctor                  Teacher                                Nurse

Student: the odd one out is the teacher as the others save lives

For guessing the topic…

Same thing, but include one word that is not related at all, and see if students mention the topic when they share their opinion!

Example topic: Endangered animals

T-rex                     dodo                     rhino                     woolly mammoth

Student: rhino is the odd one out as the others are extinct

(leads into a discussion on things like threats rhinos might face and introducing term ‘endangered’.

 

  1. A conundrum

Pose a difficult question to the students which may be a topic of debate.

Topic: giving opinions

Recently, a teacher recommended the ‘do or die’ videos by National Geographic. You’ll find plenty of these on youtube. Choose one relevant to your topic.. here’s an example of one.

  1. Hangman!

I really hope you’ve found 1 new idea here. Please comment and add your own ways to introduce a topic, let’s get from 35 to 100!

Update: I’ve added some further ideas in this new post.

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32 comments

  1. This list is great, interesting to see so many new ideas.
    One of my favourite ways of introducing and creating interest in the topic is presenting some facts and figures. When I teach about TV (or choose this topic for conversation classes) I sometimes start by drawing a TV set on the board and writing numbers next to it: 4h40mins (has to do with time children spend watching TV every day), 80% (this % of all married couples have a TV set in their bedroom), 2.4 (this many TV sets there are per household in the US). My students need to figure out how these figures relate to the topic. I ask less advanced students to match numbers with their meaning.
    This idea is super versatile and might be used with a lot of different topics/age groups/levels. It’s also a pretty good way to get students talking early in the lesson (checking whether they are surprised with the data etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great stuff! I use that as an intro for new classes where I write a few numbers/words on the board about me – ’30’, ‘Tortoise’, ‘Scorpio’, whatever. I tell students these are the answers, but what are the questions – they guess. I never thought to use it in other contexts, thanks for the idea! By the way, your blog is great. So many good ideas – thought I was already following but I am now!

      Like

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