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Five Practical Ideas for Lesson Starters

A good lesson starter can get your pupils engaged, excited about a topic and motivated for learning. Lesson starters can also be used as a helpful recap of what was learnt in the last lesson or covered for homework.

These lesson starters should all be adapted to reflect the content of your lesson. Whilst these ideas have been adapted from the resources that accompany our in-house course on Outstanding Geography Lessons, they are suitable for a wide range of subjects and are all designed to require few resources and only a little preparation.


  • Prepare a list of concepts, ideas or objects that relate to the lesson you are about to teach.
  • Divide the class into four teams
  • Each team has a designated ‘artist’ who has up to one minute to draw the object etc whilst his/her team mates guess what the object is.
  • The team who guesses correctly first wins a point.
  • The first team to three points wins.
  • Variation: You can have one student draw on the whiteboard whilst the whole class guesses if you prefer or have a difficult to control class

List –> Definition

  • Ask students to list all the words they associate with the topic they will be learning about in today’s lesson e.g. Global Warming
  • Then ask them to join these words together to form a definition
  • Variation: This can be done either individually, in teams or as a class activity

Pupil as teacher

  • One student is appointed as the teacher
  • They are responsible for summarising what was covered in the last lesson / homework
  • They then ask the rest of the class questions about what was studied
  • Variation: In order to ensure less confident students are involved, you could appoint a pair of students as teacher. If you use this starter regularly, you can ensure everyone gets a turn to be teacher at some point. If students know it is their turn next time they can prepare

Mystery bag

  • Take a bag into the classroom that contains an object which has a connection to the lesson
  • Pass it around and let the students feel the object inside the bag
  • The first person to guess what it is, is the winner
  • Variation: Allow the students ’20 Questions’ with only yes or no answers to guess what is inside the bag

Just a minute

  • One student is asked to talk about the topic that was covered in the last lesson / for homework.
  • At the first repetition, pause or mistake another student takes over and so on until the minute is up
  • Variation: This can be played as a whole class or in teams

If you regularly use starters that work well with teams it is worth establishing regular teams which are used every time. This way you can keep an on going score. Younger students will be very excited to win a trophy which can be awarded to the winning team at the end of each half term.

A few words of warning

It is worth bearing in mind the following during lesson starters:

  • Starters should be relevant to the topic you are covering where possible, otherwise they can be seen as simply eating into lesson time.
  • Decide how long you will spend on a starter beforehand, it is easy to get carried away and find that half the lesson is gone.
  • If you have a class that tends to get over excited, think carefully about the best starters, and whether they should be done as a whole class, individuals or in teams. You want to motivate the students, but not start a riot!

I hope these are helpful – please share your favourite lesson starters by commenting on this post.

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