We asked teachers for their favourite ways to get lessons off to a good start

Man sprinting out of the blocks on a track

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The first activity can set the tone for the rest of your lesson. Engaged, thoughtful students who can draw on what they’ve previously learned are the best to work with. We asked for suggestions for the kinds of things that get everyone into this mindset.

1. Healthy debate

Students enjoy discussion. Focused on the right topic, it can help their oracy skills, recall and reasoning.

To get a discussion going, you might need a simple prop. Show a picture related to a news story and ask students to describe the story. Or, show a picture and random object and see if students can find any connections between them. The picture could link to the lesson to come. Ask students to recap by asking them how the picture relates to the topic so far.

A picture-starter can also be a great way to get students exploring science career options. And it can provide an opportunity to discuss philosophical or social questions, or cutting-edge research findings. Try the ready-made lesson starter slides about cutting-edge research from Education in Chemistry.

Ask students an open-ended question. For example, ‘Which would you rather drink from and why: a swimming pool, a puddle or the sea?’ Students must select and justify their choice over others. This example could be particularly useful for revising or beginning lessons on potable water. Without knowing it, students will think through what is in water sources and what needs to be done to a water source to enable us to drink it.

2. Think practically

Even if this is going to be a theory lesson, use the first minutes to recap a recent practical. Take photos of practical work during a lesson and then use them in the next lesson. Students label the equipment they see and describe the practical method. An added bonus is the class then has a photographic record of practicals they complete.

Card sort activities help students remember all steps for practicals. For example, separate steps for preparing a standard solution onto separate cards for students to put into order.

3. Demonstrate it

Show students a demonstration that illustrates concepts learned in previous lessons, or coming up this lesson. For example, if you want to get students interested in exothermic reactions and bond enthalpy, the methane bubbles demonstration is perfect.

If you’re stuck for demonstration ideas, browse Exhibition chemistry in Education in Chemistry.

Thank you to all the teachers who shared their favourite lesson starters: Satinder and Aimee from Market Harborough; Gantam from Nottingham; Cherylin from Warwick; and Maria from Leicester.