This term I’ve tried out a few different ways to introduce a lesson. These ones have worked well. They might be worth reading if you’ve exhausted my previous list!
- Song lyric gap fill
Example: 3rd conditional, regrets
Do a short gap fill on part of a song related to your topic. Mine was on some lines from Frank Sinatra’s My Way:
Regrets, I’ve had a few… (1.19 – 1.30)
Sporcle is full of great quizzes in various formats. Anyone with a log-in can make a quiz so they are not all great, but there are some good formats, especially matching and typing tasks. These are good for collaboration (with an interactive whiteboard) and for testing prior knowledge. We were learning about Africa the other day so I got my students to match the country name to the location on the map using this quiz. They had 3 goes at it, eventually getting half correct. Each go took about 4 minutes.
Don’t tell football mad students that there are an abundance of Premier League quizzes on the site – unless you’re in need of a highly motivational end of class reward!
- A short performance – miming
Example topic: past perfect
Students watch a teacher do a short mime at the front of class and speculate about what happened. I mimed that I was watching the football, drinking a coke, I suddenly realised that a spider had crawled into my glass! I jumped up and ran out the room. Explain what happened, board the target language and go from there…
- A short performance – character acting
Topic: any book/story/news article involving a character
Tell students that you will be in role as a character from the story they will read today. Sit at the front of class. Students have 5 mins to ask you any questions they want. They will have no idea who you are, so will start with simple things like ‘what’s your name’, ‘how old are you?’, etc. As they get more information, the questions will flow (especially if your manner/behaviour is interesting!). After the performance, give students a few minutes to discuss what they learnt about the character, whether they like them, etc.
I was a builder who had won the lottery
I was a vampire (who REALLY didn’t like the light in the classroom!)
- Sights and Sounds
Example topic: sports
This was an activity from the teacher’s book for English in Mind, which I adapted.
Tell students to think of their favourite sport.
How do you feel when you play the sport? How does the sport smell?!
How does the sport look? How does the sport taste?
If you could ask the sport a question, what would you ask?
What would it say?
It sounds ridiculous, but you’ll be surprised how creative some students can be!
Example topic: food
I mentioned me/not me in the previous post. I’ve adapted it by adding various items into Wheel Decide, spinning the wheel, and letting students have a brief 30 second discussion on if they like the food or not, and why. Could be used for any topic really. You could also make the options a choice, like ‘bread or pasta?’ Ok, so Wheel Decide is a bit gimmicky, and isn’t really necessary for this task, but it is good fun I think. Give it a go!
- Bespoke stop the bus
You know the game where you think of a word beginning with a certain letter for each category? Just tweak this to suit your lesson topic and reveal prior knowledge of the students
Example topic: survival
Stop the bus categories: a tool, a wild animal, a way to get attention, etc
- Giving gifts
Example topics: special occasions
This is my favourite lead-in ever, but it’s a bit restricted to certain topics. Give each student a piece of paper with a present written on it (I-Phone, tickets to see Arsenal, a carrot, etc). Use pictures instead if you wish. Students shouldn’t look at their present so only their classmates know what it is. Students then mingle, offering their ‘presents’ to various classmates by holding the paper in front of them and saying ‘here you are’. Classmates read what’s written on the paper, then respond to the offer (without giving away what the present is). At the end of the activity, students sit down and discuss the responses they received and what they think their present was. Finally, reveal the present and let them laugh! Note: if you restrict responses to just ‘thank you’, this is a great way to introduce the attitudinal function of intonation.
- Which picture best represents…
Example topic: emotions
A nice way to start things off, and pretty versatile. Which of the pictures below best represents happiness? Why?
- Know, Want, Learn
This is a good way to start a topic or module. Give students the topic title, and hand out a table like this. Get students to write down 2 or three things they already know about the topic, then a few things they want to know. At the end of the module, get students to reflect on what they’ve learnt. I’ve heard about this activity done in various ways, but thanks to Pippa Simmons for bringing it up in a recent CELTYL training course.
- Mind maps
I don’t use mind maps as often as I used to, but they’re a great way to check prior knowledge.
- Noughts and crosses questions
Example topic: Australia (Kangaroos)
There’s nothing like a game show style introduction to a topic. Think of nine questions on a topic. Draw a noughts and crosses board. Students work in teams, they choose a number and you ask the question. Noughts and crosses is ‘tic-tac-toe’ by the way…
Where do Kangaroos live?
What do Kangaroos eat?
How do Kangaroos move?
- Real English interviews
I found this site recently, and I think the interviews give quite a good introduction to various topics. There’s a lot you can do with them as listening tasks too, so I’ll just link it and let you explore!
- Pictures around the room
Example topic: various
I find any task that gets my YL students up and moving straight away is always a winner. Put 12 pictures around the room related to your topic or target language. Recently, I used adventure sports. Students write down what they think the sport is. Again, assesses prior knowledge, gets them thinking and moving, gets them engaged.
There’s plenty more you can do than just naming the sports. The students could walk around and decide which sport looks the most exciting, most boring, etc. Students could write questions they have about the sports on post-it notes and stick them on the pictures. What else could you do?
- Quizlet scatter game
Example topic: jobs
I’ve used Quizlet a bit this term (my boss told me about it). It’s a good tool to help you review vocabulary – you make your own flashcards, writing definitions, using stock images to represent words, etc. It has a good ‘Scatter Game’ feature, where it takes the words from your list and their corresponding pictures, then randomises them on the board. You must drag the words to pictures using your interactive board pen. If the word and picture match, they disappear. The first team to make everything disappear are the winners. This is a better tool for reviewing, but I don’t see why you can’t use it as a lead-in to check/activate prior knowledge too.
- Degrees of separation
Example topic: the Beaufort scale
Do you remember that game where you had to link other famous actors to Kevin Bacon in no more than 6 steps? Something like that anyway. You can adapt this into a pretty good lead-in to a topic. Give learners the lesson topic and get them to think of steps that connect them to the topic. Here was a good example from my learners last week.
Last week the topic was adventure sports. In the lesson we learnt about windsurfing. You need wind to windsurf. The Beaufort scale is about wind.
Example topic: the Mayans
A good one from my boss the other week. Give students a few pictures related to the topic, in this case Mayan temples and pyramids. Allow students time to discuss the pictures, and think where in the world they might be from. Display a world map, and have students mark on the map where they think the pictures were taken. Either reveal the correct answer or let students find out for themselves later in the lesson.
So, I tried all of these this term. My favourite was Wheel Decide as both my YLs and adults found it funny. It livened up the start of class. Degrees of separation was creative but YLs took a while to get going so it wasn’t the most snappy. Sporcle and Quizlet were better at other times in the lesson as stirrers. Overall, the picture activities generated the most discussion and interest. I hope you find something new to try in the list above. Enjoy!