Starting Strong: Engaging Opening Activities

An "Anticipatory Set" Infographic: A circle image divided into five sections around the central words "Anticipatory Set," with the sections labeled "Grabs Interest," "Accesses Prior Knowledge," "Involves All Students," "Leads to Learning Objective," and "Helps Transfer Learning"


1. "Open Lessons with a Bang" (post) lists some quick and easy "anticipatory set" activities (a.k.a. hooks, leads, advance organizers, set inductions, etc.) instructors can use "to prepare students for the lesson by setting the students' minds for instruction."

  • Such priming can be "achieved by asking a question or making statements to pique interest, create mental images, review information, focus student attention, and initiate the learning process." 
  • "The first couple minutes of every lesson is critical to its success."

2. Some Anticipatory Set Options

  • "Picture prompt" -- photograph, map, infographic, artifact, comic/cartoon, prop/mystery object, picture puzzle (physical or on ProProfs jigsaw), news headline/article, timeline, artwork, collage, advertisement, poster, etc.
  • Problem: "Real-world problem of the day," scenario, case study, experiment, simulation, etc.
  • Story: "Current event or personal story," relevant historical anecdote, etc.
  • Writing Prompt: "Open-ended writing prompt that sparks inquiry and creativity," debate statements, intriguing/essential question, survey, etc.
  • Knowledge Prompts: "Riddle," fun fact/factoid, question of the day, quotation/catchphrase (straight or jumbled for decoding), analogy, core vocabulary term (perhaps with intriguing eytmology), word-association, Guess Who?, themed (true/false) questions ("anticipation guides") inviting students to predict the answers (revisted at the end of class as a closure activity), charades, pictionary, etc.
  • Multimedia: "Short, engaging video [or music or other sound file, a commercial, animation, online game, etc.] followed by a turn and talk" or other quick and easy active-learning activity 

3. Getting the Most from Your Anticipatory Set Activity

  • Make it relevant: Have a clear "content-based connection to the most essential part of the day’s learning." 
  • Bridge to the Lesson: "[E]scort students into [the day's topic/lesson]."
  • Make it iterative: "[R]efer back to it during the lesson" -- "[S]tudents will come to expect that, whatever weird thing you do at the beginning of class, it’s going to end up meaning something later."

4. Questions for an "Anticipatory Set Planning Sheet"

"In order to write a successful anticipatory set, consider asking yourself the following questions":

  • "How can I involves as many students as possible, piquing their intersts for the subject matter to come?"
  • "How should I inform my students of the lesson's context and objectives, in [student]-friendly language?"
  • "What do the students need to know before they can delve into the lesson plan itself and direct instruction?"
An "Anticipatory Set Planning Sheet" with the page divided into three sections, each of which is prefaced by one of the above questions.


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