Tuesday, 26 March 2013

My favourite zero prep lesson starters

We once called them oral warm-ups. Now they are called, in the UK at least, starters. For me they were a way of grabbing the attention of a class and setting the tone for the lesson. The tone was: we are going to work fast and if you're lucky with a bit of fun. Sometimes they would be simple vocab reminders to make a link with a previous lesson: "Comment dit-on X en français?" or "How many words to do with .... can you remember". I also had a few no-fail fall-back starters. Nothing revolutionary, but they work. For example...

Fizz-buzz: the whole class game where you go round the class counting from 1 upwards replacing numbers with 5 in (or a multiple of 5) with FIZZ and numbers with 7 in (or a multiple of 7) with BUZZ. Where both 5 and 7 are involved, they must say FIZZ-BUZZ. The class has to concentrate hard to keep up and, of course, you get your little cross-curricular mental maths bonus.

Word association: either done as a whole class (better for control) or in groups (if the control is already there). Usually produces some amusement and it goes wherever the class takes it.

Quick grammar drills: e.g. "I give you a sentence in the present, you put it in the past". Give a few examples to make sure they've got it. Lots of TL use plus some grammar analysis and audio-lingualism. Not sure the comprehensible input folk would like it! Too much focus on form.

Aural anagrams: read out anagrams of recent vocab. Class notes them down and first guess wins the round. They get quite competitive with this one. Good for alphabet and listening carefully.

Simple songs: good for beginners and near beginners. Numbers, days, alphabet, months. Brings a class together quickly. Pupils like the familiarity, though learning things in order by rote may not be the best way to develop spontaneity. We don't want children trying to say quinze by counting from un.

Mental arithmetic sums. You read out a sum, they jot it down and figure out the answer. Teach them plus, moins, multiplié par, divisé par. Make them harder and harder.

Maybe these would work well with your classes, maybe not. Depends on your personality, the learning context, the students.

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