TTS Lesson Openers App
They say that when it comes to a job interview the first five minutes are make or break. I’d say it was less than that and that’s certainly the same when it comes to lessons too.
The most important part of a lesson occurs during those first few moments and if the activity engages children from the outset then you know you are on to a winner. If the activity is as dull as ditch water then things unfold pretty quickly before your eyes.
We can consider the opening activity as the ‘hook’ used to entice children to dive deeper into the content. This isn’t some cheap trick for getting children all fired up but importantly its role is to activate prior knowledge, engage children and to establish a purpose for learning. Openers need to question and challenge by the bucket load.
Lesson openers that are novel, engaging, relevant and contain a personal connection help children focus their attention on the work ahead.
Whilst we all have some tried and tested golden nuggets of our own, wouldn’t it be good if we could access a whole pile of them in one place that are easy to access?
The TTS Group have produced a generously free and very handy iOS app of 400 lesson openers ideal for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 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 to spark thinking and as the foundation for discussion in a myriad of topics.
Once downloaded the app presents you with a list of the curriculum subjects that you can access with a single tap.
Some subject areas have more content than others but new material is being added to fill any gaps. Each subject area has an introduction that explains that the opener questions are arranged by ‘theme’ and by year group.
There are five questions for each theme and these become increasingly more difficult. What I like about the questions is that in most cases they are open-ended which allows rich opportunities for discussion and for 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 so it’s really rather easy.
Any particular question set that you like within one of the subject areas can be saved to your favourites which make planning a whole lot easier too.
The app also contains some lesson openers under the banner ‘Magic Moments’ which is aimed at easy to put into action ideas when you suddenly get called to cover a class or if you work as a supply. These stand-alone life-savers could be used even if you aren’t standing in for someone else as they contain some cracking activities.
The idea of using the lesson opening questions as a genuine lesson warm-up is clearly the most obvious way of stimulating discussion but the openers could be just as effectively used part way through a lesson or as a plenary or used for a homework task.
So you could use them to introduce a whole area of study or as the focus for a single lesson. In whatever way they are used, they make for ideal learning conversations for partner work and small groups.
Merely posting the questions on the IWB and leaving children to it won’t achieve much so these questions and activity prompts need to be carefully managed with plenty of teacher input and follow-up questions. The questions within each theme could be used as part of a learning or working wall.
The aim of this stimulating resource is to provide a wide range of questions which promote thoughtful and creative responses where children are actively engaged in discussion and investigative thinking.
If anything, the openers will help children begin to think of their own, more effective questions and 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 and develop further discussion and for children to justify their thinking. If anything, the questions, when used regularly will provide the chance for children to express themselves more openly and assist in creating a positive learning and sharing experience.
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.