I wouldn’t say I do a lot of “lesson planning” per se, but I am constantly planning lessons in my head and jotting down notes and ideas of things that I hope will spark interest in my kids. Sometimes I’m quite certain I’ll capture their attention, but my execution is a bit off and I lose them before we ever get started. Lately my mind has been wandering back to my ol’ college days and all those education classes I took. Hmmm, maybe there really was something to that “anticipatory set” part of the lesson planning.
An anticipatory set is basically just an attention-grabber at the beginning of a lesson. It might be a book, a thought-provoking question, or an activity to kick things off. This week I kicked off our study of volcanoes with 20 Questions.
I put several igneous rocks (rocks from volcanoes) into a box and gave the kids 20 yes/no questions to try to figure out what was in there. They adored starting things off with a game even though they didn’t figure out what was in there. We played a few rounds with different objects that had to do with volcanoes, and soon they had the hang of things and guessed them all right off. It really only took them one round to discover the importance of narrowing things down instead of just waiting their questions on random guesses. They each took a turn putting something into the box and being the leader too. We looked at all of the items together and I asked what the things had in common. Volcanoes, of course! They got it right away.
Overall, the lesson took a bit longer than normal, but they sat perfectly still all through a pretty lengthy (though interesting) book about the amazing eruption of Mt. St. Helens. (And by “perfectly still” I mean they were actively engaged, pouring over the amazing pictures, asking constant questions, and wondering out loud about the book through it all!) Their attention was sparked and they were ready to dig in and learn. I love it when subjects so readily lend themselves to reading, games, and hands-on activities all wrapped up together.
20 Questions could be an attention grabber for just about any lesson or unit you’re starting. Just put an object in a box and start the question countdown. Remember, only “yes” or “no” questions!