Starting lessons with a BANG: Bringing students into lessons
WHAT? I don’t know that… says the uncertain student with intrigue and interest in their face. The confusion of a student can be a powerful tool to help us engage them in learning new concepts and content. I am curious what other teachers might be using to open their lessons or hook their students into learning. For now, to support and perhaps assist others, I’ll share some of my angles for engaging.
One technique that I like to use in my classroom is to ask them an opening question that opens the day's lesson or the topic of interest for that period. I find that using driving questions which are open and challenging can lead to really positive engagement and outcomes for those that are willing to give me a chance to open their minds to new ideas and directions.
A link to some question starters for middle school science is here.
Showing an image that is related to the topic or a diagram is also a great way to bring students along and give them the possibility to generate their own questions. To ask them to break-down a diagram or suggest improvements. To take some time to see what they already know, where they might go given a visual prompt and some room to engage for a while and what they might find most interesting to learn about a given topic. Below is an example image and I would ask students to tell me anything can about this image or ask them to come up with any and all questions about this image that they can. This would be ideal for the waves science topic.
For science classes, a literal bang is always popular. Popping a balloon, making a small explosion or reaction can be particularly helpful. Engaging students with a brief demonstration will often help with engagement too. Even slapping down the hand on the desk or making a loud noise to get students to jump to attention can assist with jump-starting a lesson. It could be related to the topic of sound in science, singing a song lyric in English or barking orders like a roman general in history etc.
Starting with a mistake is useful and can challenge students to learn about supporting others and perhaps correct a misconception that they already have. This is particularly useful for mathematics problems with multiple steps or science with a common misconception and correcting that misconception.
Stories are one of humankind's great historical treasures. Stories have been used historically to pass information from one generation to the next and the rhythm of them can help students to remember. I like stories because the only real limit to them is how much you can practice and improve your delivery, you can add visual aids, sound effects and extraordinary details to enhance this practice.
Start with vocabulary and you can use keywords to challenge students to guess the topic of the lesson they will be learning about, slowly feeding them more and more obvious keywords to help them guess the topic of inquiry. It helps with glossary development and word acquisition.
A menu of learning items is one appealing method of lessons and teaching that I really enjoy and students do too. Though this is less of a starter idea and more an entire unit approach. It gives freedom of choice, while also guiding students to relevant learning that they need to complete a topic on the curriculum.
In summary, some great openers for lessons - that I enjoy - include:
Literal bang - science demonstration
Vocabulary guessing game
(more for in unit - menu of learning items)
Please let me know what you find are your best hooks for content and I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for reading.
Cheers and stay curious
Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist
(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)