The opening activity should be the hook to entice children deeper into the content. This isn’t some cheap trick, it plays an important role in activating prior knowledge, engaging children and establishing a purpose for learning. Openers need to question and challenge in spades.
Lesson openers that are novel, engaging, relevant and contain a personal connection help children to focus their attention on the work ahead. While we all have some tried-and-tested methods of our own, wouldn’t it be good if we could access a whole pile of them in one place?
TTS Group has produced a free and handy iOS and android app of 400 lesson openers ideal for Key Stage 1 and 2. The content has been written by trusted specialist advisors and contains an enormous collection of subject-specific questions that can be used across the curriculum, both to spark thinking and to offer a foundation for discussion in a range of topics.
Once downloaded, the app presents you with a list of the curriculum subjects, which you can access with a single tap. Some subject areas have more content than others, but new material is continually being added. Each subject area has an introduction, explaining that the opener questions are arranged by theme and by year group.
There are five increasingly difficult questions for each theme, and what I like about them is that in most cases they are open-ended, allowing rich opportunities for discussion and wider participation across the class. Questions within each of the themes can be posed directly to children, or they can be built into creative or written work.
The ability to find what you need is facilitated by a simple search, and you can locate information by subject, key stage or key word. You can save particular question sets that you like to your favourites, which makes planning a whole lot easier too.
The app also contains some lesson openers under the banner ‘Magic Moments’. These are ideas that are easy to put into action for when you suddenly get called to cover a class, or if you work as a supply. There are some cracking activities in here though, so they make great additional ideas for all teachers.
Clearly, the most obvious way of stimulating discussion is using the lesson-opening questions as a class warm-up, but they could be just as effectively used part-way through a lesson as a plenary, or used for a homework task. You could use them to introduce a whole area of study or just as the focus for a single lesson. Whichever way you use them, they make for ideal learning conversations for partner or group work.
The aim of this stimulating resource is to provide a wide range of questions that promote thoughtful and creative responses, where children are actively engaged in discussion and investigative thinking. The openers will help children start to think of their own, more-effective questions and to share viewpoints more considerately. As the majority of the questions in the app are open-ended and exploratory in nature, they provide incredibly useful and rich qualitative data for assessment purposes, giving you unique insights into how children think. The questions are bound to produce many different responses, which will allow for further discussion to naturally develop, and for children to justify their thinking. When used regularly they will provide the chance for children to express themselves more openly, and assist in creating a positive learning and sharing experience.
Verdict: Perfect start
The app isn’t flashy and isn’t animated, but it doesn’t need to be. The star of the show is the content. It contains some brilliant starting points for activities and will encourage children to take part in quality critical and creative thinking and discussion, with opportunities for rich follow-up in a whole variety of ways.
With thanks to John Dabell for reviewing TTS Inspire for Teach Primary Magazine.