We’ve all seen a video or read a book that grabbed our attention right from the start– that’s the best kind of experience. We know this but we don’t always think about our lessons in the same way. How awesome would our lessons be if we started with an engaging introduction? As a teacher who followed the 5-E model lesson plan structure for all of my math lessons, this was the best part of the planning process. The “Engage” activity, the first part of the 5-E model lesson, set the stage for the rest of the lesson. I knew that if I got their attention early on, I had a good chance of retaining their attention long enough to teach the content I was trying to teach. With this strategy in mind, I’m sharing five of my favorite lesson “hooks” with you.
- Short Game: Our students love to play games, so why not start the lesson with one. For example, you can start your lesson with a Bingo-style game that reviews a prerequisite skill, such as an angles Bingo game before a lesson on classifying triangles. Or, what about a fun web-based game that connects to what you’re teaching, such as a function machine game before a lesson on writing rules for patterns or tables. You could even use a card and/or dice game to generate some energy, such as using a simple cover-up style game to review multiplication facts before a lesson on multi-digit multiplication or a create-a-number sentence game before a lesson on order of operations.
- Picture Book: One of my favorite ways to engage my students is through the use of picture books. There are so many books available that can support the standards that we teach. Picture books can be used to introduce a skill or create a context for a concept. For example, I love to use The Greedy Triangle to introduce classifying shapes. As a middle school teacher, I liked to introduce scale factor with a fun book called Cut Down to Size at High Noon. Both of these books are great springboards for a math lesson. Need picture book ideas? Click here!
- Video Clip: Just like with movies, engaging your students with a video clip can be an excellent way to start your lesson. Specifically, 3-Act Math tasks are perfect for using video media to launch a topic, even if you don’t finish the video on the first day. You may choose to show the first act to launch the skill and then move into your lesson. For example, the Girl Scout Cookies video from Dan Meyer’s website would be a great launch for a lesson on volume. After watching the video, you may want to ask the students how they could determine the number of boxes in the trunk and record their responses on chart paper. As you move through the lesson, you could allow the students to refine their ideas.
- Real-World Problem: Starting a lesson with an engaging problem can also be a way to not only provide context for a concept but also incorporate problem-solving. For example, consider the following problem. The Chaney family hiked 1 3/4 miles on Saturday morning. They hiked 1 5/8 miles on Sunday morning. On which day did they hike the shorter distance? Beginning a lesson with a problem like this and providing students with the time to think through and justify a response could give you some great feedback on how much your students already understand about comparing fractions and the strategies with which they are comfortable.
- Notice and Wonder: Have you ever thought about launching your lesson with a picture and creating a “Notice and Wonder” chart with your students. Consider the picture below. What would your students notice? What would they wonder? How could this image be used to launch a lesson about prime and composite numbers? Hmmm? Are your wheels turning?
Selecting an engaging way to launch your lesson can be a game changer for you and your students. If they’re engaged from the start, it is much easier to keep their attention and to help them master the necessary content and skills.