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17 March 2023

5 Successful Starter Ideas

Adrienne Tough profile image
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Adrienne Tough

The starter to me is one of the most crucial elements of a lesson. Whilst allowing the teacher time to fulfil the admin obligations – registers, book checks etc- it allows students to settle and reflect on teaching. Some schools have strict policies/expectations with starter activities whilst others are more flexible. From my experience there generally seems to be a retrieval or a literacy focus. So here are five starter tasks that I find to be consistently successful. All have their own merit and so I recommend mixing them up if you can!


  1. Exam question[s] – You can think you have taught a topic particularly well or students really understand the content but the skill to apply this to exam questions might not quite be there. A great starter task is to show some past exam questions and then review them after. This can really help identify misconceptions and help indicate if anything needs to be re-covered or if we’re ready to move on. Plus, students tend to like exam style questions when its lower stakes as they can feel successful and importantly become familiar with mark scheme expectations.


  1. Retrieval grids: There are a lot of retrieval tasks out there but one of my favourites is the retrieval grid. I set a 3 x 3 table with questions covering topics that typically range from last week, last month, or last year. Sometimes there is a theme and sometimes it’s more random. This allows for a lot of content to be revisited. Assigning point values to each question is also great at motivating students.


  1. Quick fire questions – five questions which increase in difficulty and ending on a challenge question of some sort. Sometimes short and simple is the best method and this can be really useful if you want to assess a particular topic.


  1. A picture says a 1000 words.

Putting some pictures up and asking students to explain the pictures or list key words associated can be a great opportunity to gain some insight into their understanding and allows for more creative thinking.


  1. Reading comprehensions

Giving a set task and asking questions based on the text can be a good activity in introducing new content or relating wider real-life scenarios to relevant topics. Students quite often enjoy analysing the news articles as they feel a sense of pride at being able to apply their computer science knowledge to what they are reading.


There are of course many other starter ideas but here are perhaps my top five. I’d love to hear about what works for others too.


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Andrew Doughty
18/03/2023 10:54

@atough Apologies. I had two pages open at the same time and commented on the wrong post.

Adrienne Tough
18/03/2023 10:35

@adoughty Sorry, what submission is this?

Andrew Doughty
18/03/2023 08:09

My survey submission is probably part your deadline. Still, I’ve made a submission based on the cohort I’ve been working with for the past four years. Feel free to get in touch.

Pete Dring
17/03/2023 19:00

Thank you :slight_smile: great ideas!