Creating a “need to know”

What is the best way to start a lesson?

When I started teaching, way back in the mists of time (well, 2004) the “three part lesson” was all the rage. The importance of a starter was made clear as soon as we arrived fresh faced and keen of eye to our teacher training courses but there was very little idea of what exactly this starter task should entail. Often is was a dreaded word search. At best a question that linked back to the previous lesson.

Increasingly I am seeing the start of a lesson as important for creating motivation to learn. For creating a “need to know” that harnesses children’s natural curiosity.

Using  a stimulus


This dam is in Lesotho. What questions would you ask about this image?

When pupils arrive at my lesson there is always a stimulus and question on the board ready for them. They tend to arrive over the course of a few minutes as they make their way from a large site all the way to my room and I want to ensure that there is a clear expectation of what they should be doing when they get there.

The stimulus is often a photograph but sometimes a graph or quote. The question sets up an enquiry that they will explore over the lesson and will be able to answer fully by the end of the lesson.

Examples include questions like

  • Why has this huge dam been built in Lesotho?
  • Why do you find reinforcements on the inside bends of meanders?
  • Why did Haiti not recover quickly after the earthquake?

You can see an example of stimulus sets up enquiry in the example attached below.

Should the LHWP have been built

My hope is that by creating a need to know at the start of the lesson there will be a higher level of engagement throughout the lesson.


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