What’s the most important part of a lesson? Many teachers would point to the first few minutes as a vital time to settle students and engage them in learning. Below we look at the three tasks that need to happen in those key few minutes in the form of some lesson starter ideas… and show how ONVU Learning’s Lessonvu system is the best way to really analyse and work out what is best for your school and your class across all of them.

Getting to the room

The first problem at the start of a lesson is simply getting startedTimo Saloviitawriting in the European Journal of Education Research, calculated that the average lesson he observed started six minutes late  scaled up to five weeks of learning lost for each student across the whole year. Saloviita couldn’t find any statistically valid cause for this – it happened for all types of teachers, across subjects and at all times of days

Greeting students

Some of the most viral education videos of the past few years have been those showing the different ways teachers greet students outside the classroom – watch ‘Miss Judy’, filmed in October 2018, let her students choose a greeting, or teacher Jerusha Willenborg give a different handshake to every one of her classOther suggestions include handing out personal personal greetings or (a much more ‘British’ approach asking students to line up behind desks in silence until the teacher says ‘Good Morning’!

Starting learning

The choice of what to do at the start of a lesson is also interesting – and one that is the topic of significant research. Professor Rob Coe, Consultant to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has just launched a project challenging Science teachers to test whether a lesson would be better if it started with a quiz or a discussion.  

Teachers are also split as to whether you should leave work out for students to start as they arrive or wait until they’re all present outside a room before bringing them in at the same timeThis can depend on the subject and whether the teacher is changing room themselves and needs time to set up their teaching materials.  

How do you solve the lesson starter problem?

There are several ways you could use to work out what is best for your school in each of these areas. For example, asking teachers to share how they start lessons well and other lesson starter ideaslooking for ideas from other schools and reading academic literature.  In many schools, lesson observations or learning walks are seen as the best way because observers can find the factors that make a difference to a specific school. 

But, there’s a big problem with them. It’s called the ‘Hawthorne Effect’ – the presence of an observer is bound to affect the lesson. And one of the biggest barriers to the effective start of a lesson is some form of distraction. However well you try to minimize their impact, observers walking in and out of a classroom are bound to change how the lesson starts – our blog post on the ‘worst lesson observations’ includes this extreme example: 

‘Once I had five observations coincide with the same 1hr lesson – two staff in for book-looks, two in to give a general graded observation, and one in to check differentiation and SEN provision. Feedback? Pupils seemed distracted.” 

There’s a similar problem with mobile video cameras. A technician or teacher setting them up at the start of a lesson will cause delay and questions from even the best-behaved students, while wannabe TV stars can ruin the start of the lesson by trying to get themselves on camera!  

What is needed is a discreet, always-on camera. As the camera is running before the start of the lesson, the teacher isn’t distracted – and the very start of the lesson can be seen. And with all lessons in that room recorded for later review (and deletion if not used), students become accustomed to them and a genuine lesson is recorded.  

Ebook Mockup



The School of the Future Guide is aimed at helping school leaders and teachers make informed choices when designing the learning environments of the future using existing and upcoming technologies, as they seek to prepare children for the rest of the 21st century – the result is a more efficient and competitive school.

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