AQA GCSE 8520

Starter Activities

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Every Craig'n'Dave lesson with theory has a starter activity and a model answer. The activities are focussed on the content of the lesson and require no input from the teacher. You can simply display them on the board for when students come into the classroom. This ensures that there is no “down-time” at the beginning of a lesson as students arrive at different times.

ABOUT OUR STARTER ACTIVITIES

The tasks are simple, frequently requiring students to look something up on the Internet to enrich what they may have watched in our videos. For example, the lesson focussed on RAM and ROM asks students to find out where “rope ROM” was used in a famous event in history, and why programmers in the past used “core dumps”. The lesson focussed on caching asks students to count how many pieces of track a train runs around a model railway on an inner line to a station named, “cache”, and an outer line to a station called, “RAM” perfectly illustrating the advantage of caching. Although we provide these activities as starters, of course you can use them in any way you like. They are also ideal for mini plenaries.


Some schools like to use “low stakes quizzing” as an alternative to starter activities. In that case you could use Smart Revise instead, or if you have enough lesson time, use both.


PEDAGOGY FROM CRAIG'N'DAVE

Starters can serve many purposes. They can be used as a mechanism to ensure retention of knowledge from previous topics, to get students to respond to previous feedback, to excite the class, to calm the class, to get them wondering about the lesson. All of these are very valid if the execution is good and practice is consistent, building habits in the learners.


The purpose of a starter at GCSE when using CraignDave resources is to provide what we call, “engagement on entry”. Students will often arrive at different times and you need to decide when the lesson should start. This is problematic as you don’t want to start the lesson only to have to repeat most of what you have just said. Equally you don’t want students having nothing to do until everyone else arrives. You need lessons to be self-starting and not dependent on who and how many students have arrived at the lesson. While starter activities can be irrelevant to the lesson itself depending on what you are trying to achieve; it is usually better if they focus on the topic in hand. We like to pose questions on the board, get the students to find out more about a topic and complete very short activities that can be thrown away. Critically, it doesn’t really matter if a student completes the activity or not. It is to engage them and get them thinking about the topic before the “real part” of the lesson begins. Students are therefore challenged from the get-go.


With a flipped classroom approach, students can also make a start on their workbooks without you even formally starting the lesson if you want to do that. You can then pause them further into the lesson when it is calm, and everyone has been in the classroom for a short period of time.


Critically you don’t want a starter to dominate a lesson. You don’t want it to be reliant on how many students have arrived. You don’t want it to involve logistics that need explaining. You don’t want it to include packing up that will drain pace later. You don’t want it reliant on you!


You do want it to make sure all students can engage with something productive whilst they are waiting. You do want them to be in the right frame of mind for the lesson, to warm them up. You do want it to be brisk.

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