I try to do at least two of the following three things:
1. Review and consolidate prior learning that is relevant to this lesson’s learning. Regularly revisiting and using prior learning also helps embed it, strengthening memories (see 2015 Deans for Impact report on the Science of learning).
2. Spark curiosity about today’s learning / place it in a relevant / interesting context.
3. Practice applying & develop literacy & mathematical skills.
Note: remember when introducing a new kind of task to explicitly introduce it — explain what pupils need to do (or ask them to do this, some may know what an anagram is for instance) and what you expect of them (e.g. You will target pupils no-hands-up for a verbal answer, or they need to write an answer in their books, or be ready to give traffic lights responses etc.). Several of the below ideas could also work during a lesson as formative assessment, or at the end.
General strategy: Think, Pair, Share
This is a general approach that gives pupils time to think about, rehearse and discuss their answers to questions. It also gives you a chance to circulate and listen in on conversations, pick up on general trends and even select pupils to target for whole-class answers. This can be particularly effective with shy / less confident students, who may not wish to answer in case they get it wrong. If you ask them during the “pair” discussions to share their fantastic responses, this can help create a culture where they feel safe to share.
Picture / object as stimulus + question/s or task:
Anagrams / unscramble:
Take the key words from last lesson + some from this lesson, scramble them and ask pupils to unscramble them. Emphasise importance of correct spellings.
Annotating a real-life situation:
Correct the spelling mistakes:
The unbelievable truth / 2 truths 1 lie:
Inspired by the radio 4 panel game, but more structured and concise — pupils have to write a paragraph containing a number of truths and lies about what they learnt last lesson. Then take it in turns to read it to their partner, who has to identify the truths and lies. Could be really structured, as in this example.
Annotate the graph to describe / explain the key features:
I provide them with a sketch of a graph that they need to know about, they copy and annotate in their books / on MWB. I then collect their answers and annotate the copy on the board as a model that they check theirs against.
Interpretation of data:
If this is relatively new to them we would first make a list of general key words to use when describing data (constant, increasing, decreasing, etc.) as well as those specific to the topic (acceleration, speed, etc.).
Either give pupils a list of spellings to learn for homework then start the next lesson with a quick test, or give pupils 2–3 mins of spelling practice at the start of the lesson before a quick test. Frequent low-stakes testing with immediate feedback to aid learning is preferable to pupils stressing out about fewer big tests, which are purely summative.
Quick quiz / key questions to answer:
Write a sentence / paragraph using these key words:
The first time I do this I might only give them 3–5 key words, then gradually ramp it up as you go through the topic until they have to essentially write a mini-essay as revision (may no longer qualify as a starter by this point!). If you have a visualiser, they are so helpful for assessing this kind of task. I love this because it makes pupils review all the lessons in a topic and think about making links across them.
It can take a while to address the sometimes life-long misconception that all metals are magnetic… So I would certainly keep revisiting it even after the initial lesson!
Quick calculations, followed up with interpretation of what the answers mean (and which ones make physical sense!):
Fill in the blanks:
You need to think carefully about which words you blank out to make this effective — do you want them to be able to work out the answers based on the grammar of the sentences? Do you want to give them the missing words in a word bank? Do you want to give them more words than they need, including some “trick” words?
Key word & picture grid:
Once you / pupils have put this together (for homework?), they can play a game in pairs, taking it in turns to point at a word / picture, which the other pupil must then define, tell them a fact about it or use in a sentence. To make this more challenging they could choose two or more words / pictures to use in a sentence, compare, or explain how they are related.
Read the text and underline unfamiliar words:
I find this incredibly useful to discover what non-technical / non-scientific words pupils are unsure about. You can then go through these before reading the text as a class, or asking them to take turns to read a sentence / paragraph each in pairs.
Answer questions about this video:
I use this especially with classes who have a tendency not to come to class on time after break as an incentive to balance out any sanctions. I start showing a film (Attenborough usually goes down especially well…) the moment the lesson starts, so pupils who arrive promptly get to see it and those who are late miss out. You need to do this at least semi-regularly for it to become a routine and take effect.
It may just be questions arranged differently, but for some reason the game / competitive element of this format is just more motivating. Be careful not to make it too big / time-consuming, as this will defy the point of it being a quick recap / prep for today’s lesson.