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The Teaching Space Podcast

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Oct 6, 2019

Episode 69 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores different ways to start your teaching sessions.


We’re going back to teaching basics today and focussing on starter activities. For the benefit of any new teachers or trainers listening, a starter activity is a short activity at the start of the session which engages your learners as soon as they arrive. It sets the tone of the session.

Why are Starter Activities a Good Idea?

One of the main benefits of using a starter activity is that done well, it can ensure learners arrive in your training room and settle into work-mode quicky and easily. This applies to learners of all ages, incidentally!

It is also a good way to get learners excited about what is about to happen in the session to come. You can really “hook” learners in with a good starter activity.

Starters can also be used to recap on what you covered in the last session.

But Do They Work?

In drafting the outline for this show I did wonder if perhaps starter activities were a bit “passé”. I could not find significant evidence to suggest this. Based on my own experience, starter activities can work extremely well, however, there is an art to picking the right type of activity.

It’s essential to know your learners and select something to meet their needs. In most cases, you should also select an activity related to your teaching topic, otherwise, depending on the age of your learners, it might feel childish or like a waste or time. Also, stick to your session plan when timing your starter activity. It is easy to get carried away and use up a quarter or half of your session on a starter!

Starter Activity Concepts and Resources

I’m conscious that this podcast attracts listeners from a wide variety of backgrounds - this means you could be teaching any age group. So coming up with a list of starter activities you can use today is a little challenging! Instead, what I thought I’d do, is share a few starter activity concepts which you can adapt to suit your learners.

  1. Anagrams: use keywords related to your subject area (although do consider the needs of learners with dyslexia). Here’s an anagram generator.
  2. “Pub” quiz: questions could related to the previous session. Perhaps split learners into teams and use buzzers. Kahoot is a fun, online quiz tool if you prefer a digital option. Even my adult learners love a Kahoot starter activity!
  3. Who Am I? I mentioned this activity in episode 66 The Power of Sticky Notes - it makes a great starter. Don’t just use people though, perhaps use keywords from the previous session.
  4. Recap activity: one of my favourite plenaries is to choose a learner and ask them to tell the group their main takeaway from the session. They then get to chose someone else to do the same. This can also work as a starter activity if learners need to remember an aspect of the previous session.
  5. Bingo: using the standard layout of a bingo card, you can create a whole host of starter activities which can get learners answering questions, collaborating and talking about the session topic rather than the weekend.
  6. One minute/30 second recap: learners could work individually, in pairs or small teams. Challenge them to come up with a one minute or 30 second recap of the last session which they can deliver verbally or in a way which suits their needs.
  7. Pictionary: a team activity requiring a learner to select a card with a keyword from the previous session on and draw it. Team members have to guess the word.

I’d love to hear how you use starter activities - please let me know.

Wrap Up

Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the show by either:

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Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

  1. Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post.
  2. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room.
  3. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me).
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The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.