Good lessons hardly ever start badly

8th November 2011  |  by Greg

How do your lessons start? When I work with individual teachers, we always take a look at what I call, “First 5 minutes.”

It’s the beginning of the lesson proper and the time when you need just a little bit of attention from the whole class to tell them about what they’ll be doing over the next 50 minutes or so. This bit of time is essential and I’ve seen lots of lessons where a teacher didn’t get this first five minutes quite right and paid the price.

The thing is, it doesn’t need to be five minutes. Just two minutes with the whole class (and I do mean the whole class, not some or most or all except one) listening to some simple instructions is worth more than twenty minutes of instruction to half a class. What happens when you only get the attention of some of the class or all of the class for some of the time, is you can tend to spend the whole lesson explaining the activity, over and over again. Do this regularly, and your class feel less inclined to listen as they know you’ll explain it to them in person in a moment or two.

But before the first 5 minutes can even start there is the settling-in time, the time just after the class stream through the door, sweaty from football or fall-outs.

The best approach here is to wait at the door, say hello, ask how they are and direct them to an activity waiting for them on their tables or on the board. Make sure the activity is easy to access for all and doesn’t need any explanation. (If it does need explanation do this at the end of the previous lesson.)

Sometimes I just write a question on the board:

– Write 10 foods you’ve never eaten.

– Write 10 things that can’t be destroyed.

– Write 10 places you’d like visit and why.

– What if there were only 12 hours in a day? Write 10 ways our lives would be different.

– What if we all looked the same but smelt differently? Write 10 ways our lives would be different.

– What if oil ran out tomorrow? Write 10 ways our lives would be different.

So, the message is – Start as you mean to go on.

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