Fourteen Activators That Will Give Your Lessons Pop

Need new activator ideas to jumpstart your lessons? Check out this post for fourteen ideas that are sure to please choosy students.

With the year winding down and spring fever in full force, now more than ever we need ways to hook our kids in. We need the perfect bait to catch each and every fish in our pond!  Most importantly, we can't let those fish get away either. We need a meaningful bait that attracts even the most choosy fish, and we need a bait that will keep them interested. Today, I've got fourteen activator ideas that I hope matches your needs. 


Brainstorming about a topic related to your lesson provides your kids a chance to talk it out. Actively thinking about examples to go with your topic connects the child's schema and helps him/her connect prior knowledge to new learning. Have your students think, pair, and share in pairs or in small groups. Remember constructive talk is sweet music. Give them a sticky note to record their thoughts and post them on an open anchor chart. 


Quick writes work well as activators or summarizers. This post shares 14 activator ideas you can use to jumpstart the perfect lesson.Sometimes you have students who need time to process information in order to get ready for a lesson, and for these children, quick writes can work well. With this strategy, each child is asked to write as much as they know about the chosen topic during a designated time. For some children, this task can be challenging, and the amount they're able to write may be limited. For others, the list will be long. This is all okay because the quick writes are not shared. They are used as an opportunity to front load discussions. Once the quick write is completed, the teacher does a quick share. Each child will have something to say. 😁


Give One, Get One is a great brainstorming strategies. It allows kids to get up and move, encourages talking between students, and gives a lesson energy. Check out this post for other activator ideas and download this FREEBIE for use in your classroom.
I love this strategy. It is perfect for reviewing content, but it is also a great activator. Let's say we're about to read a book about trees. Every child can think of something they like to do under a tree. Once children have had a chance to come up with their idea, they share it with friends and record theirs on a recording form. I use a simple recording form. I put nine blocks on this one, but you can find others with a larger grid. 


Would You Rather has become a popular discussion game. Kids love it. They love considering their options, and they love to see what their classmates think. This activity doesn't really have to be educational, but why not? Could we use our questioning to lead into our lessons with it? Of course! Try it out and see how it works for you. (Hint-I would suggest brainstorming your list in advance though. It will keep the flow of your lesson going.


This is another favorite of mine. I love coming up with related vocabulary words or story vocabulary using this strategy, and as an added bonus, the final list works beautifully as a brainstorming list for writing later! I use Alphaboxes as a prereading strategy, but teachers can add to the lists once the lesson is done to show new learning too.


Kids, no matter the age, love it when teachers do the unexpected. For your next lesson, come dressed as Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Frizzle, or Mrs. Wishy Washy and use the character to help draw the kiddos in. Have them close their eyes and imagine something ties the character to your lesson. Have them solve a mystery, go on a science trip, or visit a favorite story. 


Kids love games, and we can use them for a fun introduction to our lessons too. Give kids puzzle pieces and have them work in teams to construct a simple puzzle of items linked to your lesson. Once all puzzles are done, have the kids figure out the connection. It might take a few minutes, but categorizing information is a skill all kids need for life.


We think of word sorts being used for spelling, but what about concept sorts. If you give students words related to your unit and have the group them, you'll be surprised what they come up with for categories. Alone, a concept sort could be tough, but doing it in cooperative groups, creates opportunities for deeper discussion. Concept sorts work well as a post-lesson assessment too.


With little people, you might draw it out. You can draw a mystery picture and have them figure out what it is and how it's connected to the lesson. You might try a quick directed drawing activity and discuss the connection. Your art teacher will love this one! 


Place a piece of paper at each of your tables with a guiding question. Have your kids work in teams to add responses to it, or kids can start their own pages and circulate the pages around the table. When I've circulated papers, I normally print my questions ahead of time and give each table one of each. Then, we share the ideas at the end. Kids really love this activity.


We all wonder about things and wonderings can make great hooks. If you're getting ready to read about gray wolves, you can have your kids share things they know and things they wonder about them. As you read, these guiding questions would likely be answered leading to great discussion.


A few years ago, I read Tanny McGregor's Comprehension Connections, and the thing I took away from it was the importance of starting with something concrete that kids can put their hands on. Bringing in a seed packet, glass jar, prism, or binoculars and connecting the item to the lesson generates curiosity and later helps kids remember.
Need to hook your "fish" in? Check out this post for activator ideas that your students will love. Choosing fun ways to build interest is the bait you need, right? Freebies included.


I'm not advising you go play in the snow here. This idea is LOTS of fun though. Give each child a blank piece of paper and ask a question related to the topic you are teaching. Have the children respond, crumple their paper, and throw them in a pile. Then, have the children pick up another. Share the responses as a lead into the lesson. 


The last favorite of mine is mystery bag. I love bringing in a related item in a bag for the kids to figure out with yes/no questions. It grabs the attention every time. In a recent lesson I did, I put a large magnifying glass in the bag. It took the kids all 20 questions to get the answer, but it led into the modeling step well since I was teaching close reading techniques.


This guided reading binder includes PRINT AND GO pages you can use with any book for a wide variety of skills. Check out the preview for it on Teachers Pay Teachers Do you keep a Guided Reading Binder or Digital Folder? I highly recommend this. Mine is divided by skill/purpose. I keep all activators in a section, skillwork in a section, and post reading ideas in a section. It streamlines things for me, and when I made one for the staff at my school, they really appeciated it. I put it with our leveled library to so they could grab and go what they needed. If you like the freebie ideas provided, you'll probably like this set. Here is a quick preview. For more
details, click the image to the left.

Certainly, I could have added quite a few more to this list of activators, but I hope I shared a few you haven't tried before. Of course, there are lots of variations you can use for any of these too. If you have fun ideas to share, please do. I'd love to grab a few ideas myself. 😁

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