Classroom starters and plenaries: creative ideas for use across the classroom

Author(s) Kate J. Brown
Publisher Continuum International Pub. Group
Published 2009
Pages 131
Price £10.99
ISBN 9781847065452
Reviewed by Dr Liane Purnell
Newman University College
Review published 27 July 2009

‘Starters and plenaries are now established elements of good lesson planning. A good starter gets a class engaged right from the word go, challenges and motivates students and sets a positive tone for the rest of the lesson. A good plenary allows students to focus on the key objectives of the lesson, and reflect on the progress they have made.’ (back cover).

The section ‘about this book’ sets the scene, defining what makes a good starter or plenary, including the factors you would expect and assessment for learning. The aim focuses on the need for a smooth transition. It outlines the seven sections and has a useful focus on clear timing including the links to a range of timers: a boon for busy people. Ace! But beware: time flies when ‘investigating’ these! Feedback is addressed.

This book is divided into seven sections:

  • In your own words (or pictures)
  • Questioning
  • Key words
  • Game show
  • Figure it out
  • Physical
  • Reflect on your learning.

Each has several ‘activities’ within these. I particularly enjoyed ‘Questioning: a team sport’ whereby you choose a sport and different questions have different values relating to questions which are harder or easier. Useful examples are given. Reading the book I can immediately see how most activities could be adapted to make use of an interactive whiteboard more, but I also liked the focus on group work. I would have liked to see a further reading section and also some links to reading. Some ideas appear to be clearly informed by earlier research as ‘Everything you know’, which reminds me strongly of Wray and Lewis’ work on activating prior knowledge.

Each activity follows a similar format with a description of the task and a bullet pointed list of variations. A specific example is shown such as

‘List three things’

Subject: music

Level: Key Stage 3

Topic: North Indian Classical music

An example of possible of a possible outcome is shown.

A fun and easy to use book which I can easily recommend to my students on taught and ‘independent’ courses, postgraduate and undergraduate. It is secondary which is not made clear on the cover or in the blurb. This is good as I feel that this end of the market is perhaps less supported than the primary sector, but I do think that the reader needs to know this in advance, especially as the cover could imply either sector. As a lecturer I have on my ‘to do’ list a need to develop further the range of plenaries I use and I need to look no further!

Wray, D and Lewis, M (1997) Extending literacy: developing approaches to non-fiction, London, Routledge.