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English Lesson Starters

What are English lesson starters?

It's a good idea to get your children's brains fired up before diving into the main teaching point for your English lesson. This is where English lesson starters come in! These are quick 5-10 minute activities that give your children a chance to get warmed up and practise some skills before starting on the main tasks of the day. They can be a fantastic way to help embed SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) learning too.


English lesson starters for KS1 and KS2


10 English lesson starters for KS1 and KS2

1. Making words: Give children a set of letter tiles or display some letters on the whiteboard. Challenge children to find as many words, or the longest word, they can using the letters that they have. Children in upper KS2 could play Countdown by choosing a set of vowels and consonants, and finding the longest word they can in 30 seconds.  


2. Describe the scene: This is an English starter that you can make as simple or as complicated as you like! For KS1 children, show them a picture of a scene on the slides. This can be anything from a photo of a jungle to an illustration of snowman. You can either just let them run with it and describe what they can see, or provide specific challenges, such as seeing how many expanded noun phrases they can use to describe what they can see, or writing three full sentences in the present tense that each include capital letters and full stops.

For children in KS2, you could challenge them to write five sentences that each have a fronted adverbial, write three sentences that each have commas, include a sentence that has a relative clause, or any other grammar or punctuation element you would like them to practise.


3. Alphabetical order: Provide children with a set of words and challenge them to arrange them in alphabetical order. For children in KS1, start with words that each have a different starting letter. By upper KS2, children should be able to order words that have at least two or three of the same letter at the beginning of the word, such as macaroni, magnetic, mace, magazine, major, machine, mackerel, etc.  

To make the challenge more physical, give each child a word card and challenge them to arrange themselves into a line to show the correct alphabetical order. This can either be done as a whole class or in smaller groups.


4. A-Z game: Write a topic on the board, such as 'fruits', 'animals', 'ancient Greece', 'colours', 'countries' or 'clothes'. Challenge children to find a word starting with each letter of the alphabet that relates to the topic.


5. Dictionary Challenge: Another way to help consolidate alphabetical order, as well as getting children used to using dictionaries, is to do a dictionary challenge. Can you find a six-letter word starting with the letter k? Can you find a seven-letter word starting with s and ending in g? How many words can you find that have twelve letters? Try these differentiated Dictionary Challenge sheets to start off, but the possibilities are endless.


6. Fantastic facts: Display a statement on the board and give children a few minutes to discuss with their partner whether the fact is true or false. This is a great activity to get children used to debating. As children get older, you could include questions that pose more moral or ethical problems, such as 'It is always wrong to steal', or 'You should always do what an adult tells you.'

As children get older, you could include questions that pose more moral or ethical problems, such as 'It is always wrong to steal', or 'You should always do what an adult tells you.'


7. Word analysis: Another way to use a dictionary for an English starter is to provide children with a word that they are most likely unfamiliar with. Challenge children to find the word in the dictionary, classify the word, then use it in a sentence.


8. Caption Competition: Writing captions for unusual photos can be a really fun English starter that will be a useful skill to develop for when they write their own newspaper articles. Show children a picture on the slides and challenge them to come up with a simple sentence to describe concisely what is happening.


9. Creative writing images: This English starter is a great way to get their creative juices flowing!. Simply show them a picture and challenge them to think up a story to go behind the image. Who are the characters? What is happening and why? What might the people be saying and why? What is the conflict and how might it be resolved? Display a few prompt questions with the image to get them started.


10. Word games: Everyone loves a word game and they are lots of fun games that are brilliant to use as an English starter.  

  • Boggle: Display 9 letters in a grid. Challenge children to make as many words as they come from the letters, only using each letter once.
  • Word webs: Like Boggle, this word game has a central letter and eight letters around it. Challenge children to make as many words as they can, always making sure that they use the central letter in each word.
  • Word ladders: Provide a start word and an end word in a ladder. Children have to work their way up the ladder by changing one letter at a time until the word has changed to the word at the top of the ladder.
  • Anagrams: Mix up the letters from spelling words children are learning, words from a topic you're studying or anything else! Challenge children to unscramble them to reveal the words.
  • Longest word: Give children a start letter. Challenge them to create a 3-letter word starting with this letter, then a 4-letter word, then 5-letter, then 6-letter. How far can they go? What is the longest word they can make?
  • Rhyming words: Provide children with any word. How many words can they find that rhymes with this word?

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