Some Ideas about Teaching






do starters and plenaries have to relate to the topic you are covering or the skills that you are trying to develop during the lesson?


As always, please yourself.

Different 'experts' will tell you different things!

As I see it there are three kinds of starters:

1. Parallels
When I was writing Options in History, I tried to get across the idea that every lesson should start with some kind of discussion/reflection on something that established the PRINCIPLE of the lesson. Thus, for example, if the lesson was about long and short term causation, I would chat with the pupils about a fight between two pupils, and establish the long and the short-term causes of the fight, or tell them that a certain pupil had failed the exam, ask for suggestions as to why, and show how the pupils' suggestions divided into long and short-term causes. Alternatively, if the lesson was about inference from a source, I might start by putting up a few random 'facts' about an imaginary person and asking the pupils to muse creatively about what kind of person it was.

2. Waker-uppers
Short intellectual exercises that 'get the brain working'. With my special needs classes, I often start with some movement version of the 'I went to market' memory game, getting the pupils in turn to complete an ever-lengthening list of tasks in order to 'win' their exercise book. The purpose of this is to stimulate the working memory before we start work.
If you include compliments and polite greetings to other pupils as part of your tasks, you can foster class-unity and calm down conflicts into the bargain!

3. Relevant waker-uppers
My number 2, who is a brilliant teacher, manages to combine the two, and devises little games (card-sorts/quizzes/intellectual challenges etc.) which are relevant to the topic she is about the teach.
= LOTS of hard work, not least in the preparation.

Personally, I do waker-uppers with my SN pupils because it is fun and its gets their brains going, but for more able pupils I MUCH prefer the 'parallels' starter.

The very first lesson I was ever taught on my PGCE course - and which taught me the MOST IMPORTANT thing I have ever learned about teaching - was:


"Start where the pupils are, and then move them towards where you want them to get."


It is the easiest thing in the world to think of an appropriate allegory for the principle you are trying to get across, and - once they have grasped the principle - it does more for the pupils' understanding of the rest of the lesson than anything else.

Posted on: Nov 5 2005, 06:52 PM





To cite this page, use:   CLARE, JOHN D. (2005/2006), 'Starters',  at Greenfield History Site (