Starting a lesson with Initial Stimulus Material

Improving Teaching

I’ve been reconsidering good ways to begin lessons and share objectives.  Looking beyond writing objectives on the board (and perhaps copying them into books), Rob Phillips (2001) suggests using Initial Stimulus Material.  He argues that stimuli such as stories, images or problems can help us outline objectives in “a clever, meaningful way”, posing hypotheses and establishing lines of enquiry.  We can stimulate curiosity while introducing key terms and ideas for future lessons.

The three examples below seek to move away from ‘starters’ and nearer ‘Initial Stimulus Material’.  (If you believe we shouldn’t be sharing objectives with students, it might be worth starting here instead though).

Version 1: The settler


We could use a word search or an intriguing image to get students concentrating from the outset.  We might ask them, for example, to count the squares (or corners) in the picture above.  This provides students with an immediate task, perhaps helping them settle into the lesson while requiring limited…

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