Tips to help new teachers start lessons effectively
As the first day of school draws closer, I imagine that many teachers, especially those about to start their first year of teaching, are beginning to think of ways to plan innovative and engaging lessons.
From my decades of being a teacher and teacher educator, I have learned many things. However, one thing that resonates very strongly is the importance of getting students engaged in learning from the opening minutes of a lesson.
For many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, school time is their only learning time, therefore, no time should ever be lost. Too often the administrivia of lesson commencement consumes large amounts of learning time. How long can ‘logging on’ to computers take?
Hooking students into learning is a valuable resource for all teachers in all curriculum areas because it provides a plethora of worthwhile activities with which to commence lessons. All these activities contribute to the development of a skill. The book is organised into twelve sections that relate to skill development. The activities are called lesson starters or hooks and they are designed to be short, sharp and focused and completed by students, largely independently. Students are meaningfully busy and this gives the teacher time to take the roll, write out the learning intention, deal with latecomers and generally organise the lesson.
When students return to school, teachers will begin to teach units of work. These units of work contain a number (often large) of subject-specific terms that are mostly unfamiliar to students. Vocabulary places huge demands on students’ literacy, so the sooner students and teachers develop a shared understanding of the terminology, the easier the learning becomes. The fact that the vocabulary section is the largest in Hooking students into learning reflects the importance of spending time developing vocabulary.
It’s critical that students can pronounce words as there is evidence to suggest that we are reluctant to use words that we can’t pronounce, even as adults. The activity on page 82 (Pre-teaching vocabulary) is a good one with which to start a unit. In this activity students say the words/terms a couple of times after or with the teacher; the teacher talks about any unusual parts of words and the students break the word up into syllables. Whilst this activity doesn’t help with the meaning of vocabulary (that will be the next lesson starter), it does ensure that students can say the words and breaking up words into syllables assists with the spelling of these terms. This activity might lead to a lesson where students read a subject-specific text where some of the words are explained.
In the next lesson, students can begin to develop an understanding of the meaning of words/terms through lesson starters similar to the ones on pages 86 and 135. Students match the meaning of the word with the word using a cheat sheet (the answers). They won’t be able to do this activity without a cheat sheet until they know what the words mean. Students can see how many they can do without the cheat sheet and then use this to check their answers or finish any matches they weren’t able to do. The rest of this lesson might involve reading more text where the terms are used and writing activities where students use the words.
If teachers want to check how students are going with their understanding of the vocabulary, then the activity on page 90 will allow them to do this. Students indicate on a table how well they know a word by ticking the relevant column. This activity is one to which teachers and students return later in the unit of work. On page 104, there is another lesson starter that allows students and teachers to keep track of developing vocabulary. Again, this activity can be used as a lesson starter several times in the unit of work.
The activities mentioned here are just a few of the hundreds in Hooking students into learning. Teachers, look no further than this resource for innovative and interesting ways to begin your lessons and get your students working straightaway.