In recent years there has been a sense that starter activities are essential to every lesson, but this has never truly been the case. It is quite possible to deliver an outstanding lesson without using a specific starter activity. That said, starters are still well worth considering as they can help you to meet a variety of objectives:

• to instantly engage the students
• to stimulate the desire to learn
• to create an expectation of achievement
• to recap prior learning
• to set the scene
• to reinforce key skills
• to energise the students
• to provide a mental warm-up

The range of activities you could draw upon is endless. Check out the various posts from our “Simple Starters” series for a few examples. To choose the most appropriate activity, you must consider what your objective is, how much time you have, and who you’re teaching. 

It is worth bearing in mind that you can also use starters to reinforce whole-school objectives. As an example, all of the following suggestions for starters have been designed to reinforce subject knowledge in Science and to generally get the pupils warmed up, but they also reinforce literacy skills. You may not see anything here you would want to use, but these ideas should still get you thinking …

Nail the key letter


This word is difficult to spell, so get the class to look at it more closely and see who can tell which of the vowel sounds is actually formed with a “y”. A variation on this is a simple “spot the mistake” exercise:


Break words down

if a key words can be broken down into distinct parts, get the pupils to try this.

photo + synthesis

To reinforce the meaning of these parts they could try to think of other words that use them.

photograph synthesiser
photon synthetic

An etymological dictionary is a very handy resource if you are embarking on this task!

Create many words from one

See how many words the pupils can form by only using letters from the key word:

top sin ton photon then

This makes them look at the word over and over again, reinforcing their mental image of its shape – a key aid to spelling for many pupils (make sure you show it in lower case). It also tends to bring out a bit of competitive edge and get them primed for more challenging work.

Turn words into pictures

All pupils are visual learners to some extent, and some find this idea really helpful. Get them to turn the word into a picture which reflects its meaning.


Practise sentence construction patterns

Give the students a little structure, and get them to focus on getting the right flow to their sentences.



Ask the pupils to write the letters A to Z down the left of a page, and then see how many of these letters they can use to form the start of words relating to the given topic. Best if time-limited and competitive.

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