Morning all!


This week I’m going to be focusing on starter activities. I’m a firm believer that a starter is essential to set the tone for the rest of the lesson. If you’ve ever done a pupil trail you’ll have seen how hard it is for pupils to make the mental shift from subject to subject. I know I would struggle to switch my brain from English to maths at the end of a long school day!


Here are three of my favourite starter activities to start off this week:


  1. Mini reading comprehension tasks

I’ve started doing this this year after a mock exam where some of my students did not get full marks on Question 1 of Paper 1 (AQA) which is a search and find type question. I regularly start lessons with a text and three comprehension questions. I try to use a range of texts, both fiction and non-fiction, so they get used to a variety of reading. I’ve also asked students to bring in or send me examples of text which can be used which serves to increase engagement. This activity can be differentiated by text, question level, timing and peer marking. It doesn’t take long to prepare and it is really helping to develop reading skills and confidence in approaching the first question in the exam, which is essential.


  1. Topic chats

I love a simple topic chat. This is when you ask students to begin the lesson by recapping the previous topic. I think oracy is so important and this gives students chance to settle into the lesson whilst doing a form of revision. This activity can be adapted in several ways to help with engagement:

  • Simply take it in turns – pairs take in in turns to say one sentence each about the topic.
  • Question and answer – pairs take it in turns to ask a question then respond about the topic.
  • 60 seconds – Partner A has to talk about the topic for 60 seconds without any pauses or repetition and Partner B times them. Then they swap. This is surprisingly difficult and, in my experience, they get quite competitive! The added bonus is that they end up verbally repeating the information which is an effective revision strategy. You could even turn this into a whole class competition where the students aim to be the last pair standing.


  1. Spelling tests

These are like Marmite, but I would argue that a weekly spelling test is a vital part of GCSE preparation. As an examiner I know the impact an effective vocabulary choice can have on a piece of writing and I am yet to find a better or more consistent way to develop the vocabulary of my students within the classroom. Obviously this vocabulary needs to be used and developed within the lesson, but I maintain that a spelling test is an effective starter. I also find that – shock horror – the students actually like them! I think it is a case of the “small win” which forms such an essential part of growth mindset. I have honestly seen a difference in the quality of writing from my students since using weekly spelling tests.



I hope you find some of these useful. I like them because they take very little preparation and, more importantly, can have a big impact on your students.  As always, if you have a starter activity you’d like to share please use the comment box. Have a fabulous week!

Minimal preparation starter activities for teaching GCSE English

One thought on “Minimal preparation starter activities for teaching GCSE English

  • February 20, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    A stimulating & fun collection of mini activities. These are sure to inject some extra zing into lessons. We especially like the idea of mini comprehensions. Thanks!


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